Friday, May 9, 2008

The Natural Rhythm Of Life, or, How Slow Can You Go?

" is troubling how many people expect applause, recognition, when they have not even begun to learn an art or a craft. Instant success is the order of the day; 'I want it now!' I wonder whether this is not part of our corruption by machines. Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life, and we are indignant if a car doesn't start at the first try. So the few things that we still do, such as cooking ... knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value."

May Sarton
~ Journal Of A Solitude, 1973 ~

Take time to smell the flowers...

This quote really hit a chord in me. I remember the years of living in the country with three children who were homeschooled, and hanging laundry out on the line, stretching the clothes or sheets as smooth as I possibly could before pushing the wooden clothes pins in place to keep them on the line, and watching the sheets blow in the breeze. Ah, there was nothing like going to bed at night in fresh, sun-dried sheets.

The dog played merrily about us, there were always barn cats, deer came through our meadow (... and skunks and possums and there were bats hanging from the rafters on the porch which I felt charming!) and one day, in a valiant effort, we all five ran with buckets of water filled with tadpoles (...the frogs had had a Field Day!) as there was a running stream from so much rain right in front of our house, but it was beginning to dry up. My husband, the three kids, and I filled buckets or whatever we could find, scooping them up and heading for the stream at the back of our property. We got as many as we possibly could and they happily swam about in the stream. How many made it we shall never know, but we tried as hard as we could. I wonder, today, how many people rush madly to save tadpoles and are enchanted by the bats on the front porch?

In those days I wrote for newspapers and magazines and had a small press of my own and everything was written on the old typewriter, first written long hand on paper. Now, everything I write is directly on this computer or my laptop, save notes in journals for the books, clippings, sketches, and so on. I still love writing by hand, but I remember the days I was getting an article ready to send off and found ONE typo in the middle of the page. I had to retype the whole page. That's what we did then, and it would be sometime -- on my 40th birthday in fact -- before I actually got my first computer. It makes writing a lot easier but I feel kind of melancholy thinking of dip pens and old fashioned typewriters. Those were magical days...

The thing is, we can't backspace life in the way we could the keys on the old typewriter. There is not even a backspace key on the computer. We must hit "delete" and as we delete it seems we delete more and more precious things from the past. But all is not lost.

One of the most important things for me was finding Buddhism in my twenties (And many practice the Buddhist philosophies while being strongly dedicated to other faiths.). I would be a student of Buddhism all my life but didn't quite take it in deeply in my 20's, but today it helps me steady myself in a world that moves so fast it makes me feel dizzy. People are always asking me if I get lonely here. Of course loneliness is the human condition. In a marriage with three kids I would sometimes feel myself a little lonely, but that kind of loneliness came more from being cut off from myself. Today, I live with 12 animals. Their needs are immediate and they are my companions all day long. As I write this Henry, my grey parrot, is on my shoulder preening my face. Blossom, the Greater Sulfur Crested cockatoo, is about 2 feet from me talking, and saying, "Hey Big Bird," and "Cockadoodle dooooooo." Do I get lonely? Yes, a minute or two here or there, but then the dogs need to go out, and I have to finish that sentence, that row of knitting, check on the roses, feed the dogs. Yes, I am human, I get lonely, but, truly, not often. I used to get a kick out of those t-shirts that said, "Plays well alone." I think I always have.

In this world that I have created it is as if time slowed down and everything moves at a slower pace. Yesterday as I was doing the dishes at the kitchen sink, just outside the window a rosy finch was drinking from the little vintage sky blue enamel bucket, dotted with white. It hangs on a shepherd's hook, along with a feeder, and up around the whole area masses of purple 'Jackmanii' clematis are blooming madly as they climb delicately through the 'Zepherine Drouhin' old fashioned rose. It took my breath away. I was afraid to move lest I frighten the tiny little bird, but off he finally flew, and back I went to my chores.

One of my favorite things is to be in the kitchen, at the sink, in the dark of night, because the light over the sink draws all manner of moths and night creatures to my windows. I will stand enchanted, in that time out of time place, to watch the teeny tiny green peepers, the little frogs whose suction cup feet can walk him right up the side of the cottage and allow him to stare at me through the window. I stay there mesmerized, looking at his huge eyes, his breath moving in and out of his chest, and wondered how lucky I must have been to catch a glimpse of such an amazing creature. So many hear the song of the tree frogs, the humming of the crickets, the owls singing out their lonely sounds in the night and block it out as nuisance. I feel at one with the Universe seeing the stars like broken glass lying on dark velvet as far at the sky can see, or gazing up at a full moon until I get so dizzy I think I might fall over backwards.

I am like the little child you take on a walk and it takes forever to go a short distance because I have to pick up every stone and tiny wildflowers and look at everything in wonder. Oil swirling in rainbows on puddles in the street. Waterbugs skimming the surface of the pond, and most especially the dragonfly who came straight into my house, and sat on me for an hour during one of my darkest moments. The dragonfly has been my totem animal for many years. They lead one out of the darkness and into the light. At that very moment I had deeply suicidal thoughts, felt hopeless, and I opened the back door and in he came, the biggest, most beautiful golden dragonfly I had ever seen. I took many pictures but he never left my body. When he was ready to leave he flew back over to the door and I let him out. I was a changed person. I haven't seriously considered suicide again.

He saved my life. He changed the course of my life. And this was a long time after I'd named my cottage and my website and business Dragonfly Cottage. When I changed my name, legally, after my divorce in 2005 to take the name Maitri as my first name, I took Libellule as my last name. The whole story of my first name I've written about here before and there's a page about it on my website, Dragonfly Cottage, but Libellule is dragonfly in French. I am of French heritage on one side and my biological grandmother's maiden name was Papillon, which is butterfly in French. Always fascinated by birds and now living with six parrots, I tell people I come from a long line of wing-ed beings. I did not choose my name lightly. First and last name were a deeply spiritual choice, and felt like the taking of the veil. I would live my quiet life, mostly in silence, caring for the animals, writing, and spinning yarn on a spindle like the days of old.

For just a second I flashed on a phrase that I've often felt to be true, "I belong in another time. I am out of step with the world here." And then I stopped short. It hit me, all of a sudden, that if those of us who are out of step with this world today, this world that goes too fast, where we have been corrupted, as Sarton wrote above, by machines, where so many people are angry and rushing and out of sync with the natural rhythms of the world, I'd say that those of us who are cooking, gardening, knitting and more just might be saving the world. It has been a great joy to me to see such a major renaissance of knitting, weaving, spinning, crochet and many other artforms that our grandmothers and great-grands and on back did. With every stitch we knit, we are knitting together a broken world. With every breath I take when I am spinning fiber into yarn, I breathe a meditative breath, and each in-breath and out-breath are prayers for a more sane, centered, peaceful, quiet world.

I may be an odd creature, out of sync with the world, but when the golden dragonfly came to visit he told me to keep on with my life, to hold fast to my dreams, to follow my heart, my intuition, and they wouldn't steer me wrong. And so they have not. And those that cluck their tongues and shake their heads, well, I feel sad for them. If they'd only walk slow, pick up a stone, pick a few wildflowers to put in a vase in their living room to gaze upon, they would be all the better for it.

We live in a far different time than the transcendentalists did. It's hard to be Thoreau today, but it is not impossible to create a little oasis where you live, and I think we have the responsibility to do just that. I came up with a motto for my life some years back, I even had it printed on postcards and I cherish the saying. I wrote, "How Slow Can You Go?" and on the postcard is a snail. I adore snails. Just watching them you find your heart slowing down and your breath easing. I created a meditation practice to follow the snail (You can read about it in the sidebar down the right, and there's a whole page on it on the Dragonfly Cottage website.)

It's time that I end here. The parrots want to go to bed, the dogs have just been out and are trying to find their sleeping places, and I've got a kitchen to clean up and a run out to the grocery store for more dog food for the morning. But there's no rush and it will all get done and tonight I will begin working on a freeform shawl, a shawl made of a mixture of knitting and crochet, cozy, with whimsical designs. This kind of piece is slow going, and what's the rush? Winter is a long way off and when it comes I shall be sitting right here, wrapped in the shawl, all the little ones tucked in woolen socks on my cold feet, and I will let the dark and the quiet fall upon me like a cloak of grace. There is so much to be thankful for in this world. There is so much to be grateful for, so much that is beautiful.

How slow can you go? Think on that awhile, and you can begin to make small changes. You will be all the better for it in your own life, and the world will be changing right along with you.

With love and gratitude for your presence in my life...




Catherine @ Sharp Words said...

I loved this post, Maitri (and was intrigued to see how you chose your name). I hate the days when it feels like I'm rushing from one thing to the next, and it's always a relief for me to just stand and hang out the washing on the line, or to cook a meal - just to take a few slow but productive moments.

CyberCelt said...

I slowed down and read your post. It made me realize that I spend too much time rushing here and there, dropping entrecards, writing posts, and adding widgets to my site, just to take them down again.

You are at ease in your own skin and that is an accomplishment.

Happy Mother's Day.

rskirk55 said...

I read your blog almost every day. It is one of my favorites and certainly one of the most beautiful sites on the web. I come to your blog for a few moments of calm and relaxation and I am never disappointed. It is like finding a quiet place in a wonderful and serene garden.
Making Perfect Sense

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