"The open blotter between the inkwell and the bouquet of narcissus in a glass of water; I pause, not knowing what melancholy words to cover this page with ... I wish for the hot tea, the golden loaf, my lamp and its milky shade ... and the barking of my dogs..."
~ Colette ~
Crossing paths through the winds of birth and death I was born in April 1954 and Colette died in August of that year, but she left me a legacy, her writings, and they are more precious than gold.
I have carried a copy of Earthly Paradise, the collected writings of Colette, a first edition circa 1966, with me for decades, bent over this thick volume in my bed, in cafes, in my garden, my companion with a loaf of crusty, still warm bread, a wedge of brie, and a glass of wine and become drunk on her words, more potent than the grape. A student of Buddhism since my twenties, crediting the Buddhist teachings of mindfulness and living the teachings as closely as possible in my daily life, I realized, today, immersed in Colette's writings, that it is not Buddhism that first taught me about the preciousness of each ephemeral moment, it was Colette whom I discovered in my teens, she who treasured the smallest details and wrote about them in such penetrating detail that, reading her, I learn to sink more deeply into each ephemeral moment in my own life, suspended in time, a breath lingering on into eternity if I am fully present, the world around me unfolding breath to breath, moment to moment.
Today I sat with Colette again, as if at the table opposite her, tasting the bread, the wine, the cheese, watching her watch and record the world around her, and I looked up at the world I have created here at the cottage, and I felt awe at the simple beauty I have gathered like wildflowers in a garden basket over my arm. The rickety old Moroccan lamp filled with brightly colored Christmas lights on the fireplace hearth next to a sleeping big black dog on his bed, the sea blue green vintage wicker table and lamp glowing against the golden pine wall and shutters, parrots chattering in another room, tiny blue parakeets conversing in my writing room, a cozy room off of my bedroom, the soft whirring of an overhead fan, one pug licking his paws while another snored, the rustling of my greenwing macaw's feathers as one drifted silently to the floor while he preened, ridding himself of moulting feathers, all of this happened in a single moment, and in the next breath, the moment was gone and the next moment brought a multitude of new gifts.
I move very slowly through my days, they are long, because I do not want to miss a single moment... carrying a large container of seed out into the woods behind my cottage for the squirrels and the ground feeders, watching the seeds cascade to the ground like a waterfall, once inside smiling as I watch through my kitchen window the wild ones come to eat, how could I miss any of this?
Sometimes when I am writing I am mesmerized by the fluid ink from my fountain pen as it forms each curve of a letter, a single word like a drop of rain that will fill a pool, a page filled with words is a river I can float in. I am in love with words. I swim in them. For a single moment I feel each drop splashing on the page, each word spilling over into the next, breathless, I watch the ink and the word become one.
I lie in bed in the morning still warm under the covers, my small pug Sampson at my back, snuggled into me, his little head on the far side of my pillow, I am filled with so much love I think my heart will burst. In the next moment there is a sound like a baby crying. It is wee little Harvey, my other little boy, breaking the silence. It is 7:06 on the dot as it is so many mornings in a row I am awestruck at his sense of time, his breakfast is not yet in his bowl, he wants his mama up and out of bed. 7:07 I throw my ankle length seersucker dress over my head and follow Harvey down the hall, smiling at his crooked little self. My daughter says he looks like a Dr. Seuss pug. She is right. He wouldn't win a ribbon in a dog show for perfect confirmation but it makes him all the more adorable. He dances and prances and turns in circles while I pick up his bowl for his breakfast. The other nine animals are not yet stirring, it is a delightful moment watching Harvey snuffle into his bowl and eat noisily.
7:10 Big Dog Moe bounds down the hall and into the kitchen. I plant a kiss on his nose and my bare feet pad across the tile floor to pick up his bowl and take his pills, one by one, out of their bottles, covering them with a bit of soft cheese on top of his food. I find these early morning moments satisfying, holy even. The feeding of each of ten animals, my senior dogs given their medications, the parrots get kisses, my tiny treasures, the baby parakeets, come to life tweeting joyfully when they are uncovered, and Big Bird Flounder, with a beak the size of Texas, hurls himself into my arms as I rub and cuddle and kiss him. With me he is a sweet baby, though scary to most other people due to his size. I hold him like a baby in my arms and burrow my face into red feathers. He whistles and tells me Good Morning and hops onto my shoulder to help me with the morning chores. He talks to the little parrots as I wash and fill their bowls with fresh water, seeds, cooked beans and sprouts and chopped greens, and finally, with the big parrot on his play stand eating his breakfast I go back to the bedroom and pick up a sleepy pug, snuggling him in my arms.
My 100 year old bed is too high for Sampson to jump up on and he waits patiently for me to get him down. He likes to sleep in and isn't in a hurry to eat his breakfast. He'd rather get up in our chair, the over-sized velvety recliner filled with pillows and and a soft purple cover. While he settles in I finally go back into the kitchen to make my coffee. It is now 8:45. The animals are all fed and cared for before the beans are ground, and in the moment when I scoop coffee beans out of the bag and into the grinder I am suspended in a kind of bliss, the pungent fragrance of the freshly roasted beans a subtle awakening of the senses. I fill the espresso machine with water, I watch it drip into the pot, I froth the milk and pour first epresso then foamy milk into an oversized mug. The next moment lingers, stretches out over timeless time as the second hand of the clock clicks from one second to the next. In bliss I have taken my first sip of coffee. There is foam on the tip of my nose.
My favorite moment of the morning is when I settle into our big chair, Sam's and mine, my hands around the hot mug, soft cover over my legs, Sampson burrowing into me and relaxing as if God is in his Heaven and all is right with the world. I have finally taken my place in the chair and our day begins in earnest. I look around me at dogs sleeping once more, the sun shining in the windows, and the wild birds tapping against the window feeders. Greeted by a chickadee I begin my day.
There are 900 minutes left in this day, a feast of riches. Even when I am overcome by a flood of tears, even when I ache for the one I love so far away, even when I burn the toast, or my beloved pug Coco died, still, through my tears, I realized how rich my life is, how lucky I was to have her, and how many companions I still have here. I cried until my stomach cramped and my eyes were red and raw but the moments passed, and my body relaxed, and I watched the three remaining dogs circle close around me, not taking their eyes off of me, and I thanked God for all I still had, and for all of the thousands upon thousands of moments still before me to experience all that life will bring, and I felt at peace, and there was a flicker of joy, and I felt Coco's presence, and I relaxed into my chair.
If I did not fully experience each moment as it comes I would not have been able to see all that I do have in the middle of such a devastating loss, and this practice of living in the moment becomes ever more precious and important to me.
It is 9:45 p.m. I have perhaps 180 or more minutes left to cherish and feel gratitude and thank God for this life I have been given. I feel full and tender and I feel in love with the world. I want to share my moments with you so you will realize how precious each and every one of yours are. I am blessed by every minute that you celebrate in your own life. These moments spill over one unto the other until there is an ocean of droplets of time resplendent with appreciation and the sound of a hallelujah chorus of the living and the remembrance of those that lived before us.
Hold each moment of your life tenderly in your hands. Stroke it, cradle it, sing it, live it, feel the joy and the sorrow and the person that you have become, that you will become by this collection of ephemeral fleeting miracles in your life. Wear them like a cloak around your shoulders, a reminder that life is a gift in all it's colors and textures. The moment is now. Don't waste it. It will be gone too soon...