Sunday, September 9, 2012

Finding Paradise...

"Paradise was made for tender hearts..."
~o~ Voltaire ~o~ 

Dear Ones, 

I have had the sweetest time of late, a time amidst difficulties already mentioned here, and the terrible heartbreak of seeing one of my oldest and most beloved friends in terrible pain and fear and barely holding on going through the end of treatments for a very difficult cancer. My heart aches and breaks and besides offering prayers and love and constant reassuring contact -- which feels so little and leaves me desperate to be able to do more -- there is nothing more that I can do for now and so I continue to do what I can.

I continue to struggle with the book that I am writing but there is continued forward movement, gaining momentum, as I both work steadily on and am shored up by very dear comments here, and e-mails and calls from friends who say, "Keep on, keep on, this is it..." and so I do, I keep on, doing what I can, every single day, and I am working very hard, amidst all that life holds right now, not to allow myself to go under from constant bouts of near suffocating fear. My spiritual counselor, teacher, and friend said a week ago, "Every time we talk lately you are so depressed and fearful," and it's the kind of thing that brings one up short because while I knew that I had been experiencing these things I hadn't realized they were so pervasive as to be seen and felt by others. Since I keep mostly to myself I think no one notices because it is not my intent to burden anyone but to move through my life and days constantly working towards equilibrium, but this is why we have spiritual teachers, and the guidance was well-timed and meant much to me.

And so a few days ago I walked outside with the dogs and I turned round and round looking at my sweet little place here and the first thought that sprang to my mind was, "I am already in Paradise." It was a shocking realization, a comfort, and a revelation.

I first want to say that I am no Pollyanna as some think when I write positive and joyful things, as though I put blinders on to keep the pain and suffering of the world out. This couldn't be further from the truth. I am all too aware of wars and famine and tragedies too many to count on a worldwide scale, but what I also know to be true is that while I hold all in my prayers at all times, and donate the bit of money that I can where I can to try to help, I then have to release the fear and worry that can sink a person already weighted down with depression and anxiety and look up to the light above and try, every day, every hour, to find beauty and joy and love where I may. I am only one person, I cannot change the world, but I am responsible for taking care of my own life the best I can because it touches many people, my children, grandchildren, friends, I don't want people to worry, or suffer, or have to contend with what living in this body of mine means, and so my solitude brings comfort to me and a cushion between myself and those I love. No one need share the burdens, only whatever love and happiness I can offer.

Paradise. We have all kinds of visions of paradise. For some it has to do with the life hereafter, if one believes in it, for others paradise is a locale, a place they long to travel to or to live, for others, still, paradise might be a dreamed of life that once achieved they imagine will be the "happily ever after" come at last. For me, in that moment, what I realized is that this imperfect-perfect life of mine, my little home and woods and garden and animals, humble and sweet, are so full of riches I couldn't count them all in a lifetime. I laughed with delight at the squirrel racing at top speed flying up trees with a little pug in chase and screeching. One of these days, just ONE, I think he is saying to himself, staunchly determined, I'm going to catch one of those things!

The wild birds at the feeders everywhere, too many types to count, and the amazing number of butterflies, dragonflies, bees and other insects in the cottage garden above, the little garden planted from seed just outside my bedroom windows (I took the above picture from the inside looking out.) that I will let go to seed and keep replanting with ever more seeds creating a topsy turvy colorful wonder of flowers to meditate on, well, every time I walk outside with the dogs it takes my breath away. Paradise indeed.

I don't need to travel the world or live in a mansion or acquire many of the earthly possessions that others might long for -- and that's all to the good for them, we each have our dreams -- I am, at long last, settled and at peace, at 58, in a place I could happily live the rest of my life, ever expanding the garden and writing and making art and sending love letters to friends out in the world and writing here and reading, oh yes, reading reading reading, whole worlds in the pages of books, and watching movies on my cozy couch snuggled in with four pugs under softly worn cotton blankets and puffy pillows with a small table next to me piled with notebooks, pens, books, a small light, perhaps a cup of tea. It is a settling thing to realize that you have landed smack dab in the middle of all that you could possibly dream of, to fall on your knees with gratitude, acknowledging the grace in each wonder filled moment, where amidst the dark clouds that will arise on the horizon in life one can't possibly help but be shored up by all there is at hand. I have found my paradise, and I discover ever more, every day.

It is a lovely Sunday afternoon. I am breathing a deep sigh of relief now that September is here and the days are getting cooler. It is so hot for months on end in the southern coastal areas that one can only creep about at odd hours to water the garden, and go in and out with the dogs, and even those tasks have sent me inside almost unable to breathe from the heat, despairing of so much that needs to be done and is impossible in weather over one hundred degrees for weeks and weeks on end. But ah, September is here, and the weather will still be warm, we will have hot days, but my garden, I know, is grateful to feel these days coming as well because it gets quite raggedy by the end of summer. The roses have given up the ghost in the heat and stopped blooming, but they will bloom beautifully in the cooler weather of fall. I will really be able to get outside and pot up and transplant things that need to be moved or brought inside. Things can be tidied over the next months and put to bed for winter, when the garden to come in spring is the distant dream and seed catalogs more riveting than the best novels. Yes, paradise, paradise found, right here on my own little acre.

Sitting here, chin resting on my palm as I gaze outside my studio windows at the hanging basket of pink and white vinca, watching the cardinals, the titmouse, the chickadee, a little wren, a blue jay, and my dear pileated woodpecker flying back and forth between the feeders and the trees that overhang my large deck, it occurs to me that, like so many other things, finding paradise is an inside job. Some people "have it all" in the world's eyes and yet that "all" is never enough. Some of the poorest people in the world, even amidst hardships most of us can't imagine, find joy and beauty and contentment in things that all too many of us take for granted or don't notice. Yes, finding paradise is an inside job and one I plan to cultivate, with the deepest gratitude and prayers of thanksgiving, all the days of my life. I want to write about it, to share it, to help others find it in their own lives, that is my dream. I don't easily walk out into the world, but I can send what I can from here and hope that my humble offerings will mean something. Even to be able to offer what I can from my own hearth and home is a blessing to me. And so I work each day to do what I can, and I walk out into the garden again and gather a bouquet of flowers while the pugs have their forays into our little wooded world, and the bounty of nature.

I hope you can touch down on a bit of paradise wherever you are right now, in this moment, with your tender heart open to receive. No matter how small there are delights to be found if we look, if we dare. These are the things I am seeking, and the more I see the more I find. And I will keep looking, and offering them to you here. Words, and art, and gardens, and pugs, and love, and so much more...


1 comment:

Goddess said...

I am never one to settle for "good enough" and always want to be and do more, but I recognize and embrace the good and try not to dwell on the bad and allow it to swallow me up. I believe that you must always strive for improvement while at the same time seeing and appreciating all that you are and have now, as well.

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