It was early summer, about 8:00 in the morning, and I was awakened by my calve muscles beginning to cramp. As quickly as possible, I got out of bed, started walking to stretch the muscles, and did my best to breathe into the pain. Once the muscles fully seize up, it can be impossibly painful. It happens to so many people. What an awful way to start the day.
But what a day to be awakened to! Once I walked off the pain and felt more normal, I put on some clothes and went outside. Milo, one of my cats, ran up to greet me and plopped down on the stone pathway in front of me.
Most of the summer, here, was wet. But on this day, it was cool, maybe 64 degrees and the sky was clear. A catbird was squawking; a car was passing down the road.
Young blue jays in their nest were screeching for food. A wood thrush was singing for love or joy or whatever a wood thrush sings for. The light on the leaves of a maple tree in the yard was so fresh, so full of life, it seemed to go on forever. I felt if only I could look deeply enough I would find places and sights never seen before, find people I would celebrate meeting.
Isn’t this, this sense of beauty or mystery, enough?
If I sat in my yard more often, with Milo, the birdcalls, the clear light, and the incredible calm, would my calves stop cramping? Would my body more often feel like a gift I give myself than a source of pain?
Why is it so easy to forget this exists? To forget the feel of the cool breeze on our face? To forget how to be nice to ourselves and to keep easy company with the world? Even when the wasps and flies and a gray fox enter the scene, even when the phone rings and the mail is delivered and the human world cries for our attention, must we forget this also exists?
Must we forget we have this ability to relax, open, and fully sink into a moment?
And what a price we pay for forgetting; we accumulate half lived or glossed over moments like a weight we can’t fathom or a pain we can never quite shake. We mistake the shape of our habits and viewpoints for the shape of ourselves. And we mistake the shape of our shadows for the contours of other people’s faces. This is so easy to do, especially in our world today. The result is we give what we haven’t acknowledged in ourselves back to the world like a bad gift.
Instead, we need to choose intimacy. We need to choose to grow more powerful and aware. We need to choose occasions to pause, take a breath and look.
It only takes one good moment.
Like this one. To shake loose the whole structure, to touch one human being with love, to pet one cat, to hear one bird, to see one leaf, and all is changed. Now that is a gift I am glad to give and receive.
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