It’s been a rough winter in Colorado. Arguably, it’s been a rough season everywhere. The unpredictable and volatile weather, on account of a warming planet, can put anyone on edge. So when the sun shines, the skies clear and temperate weather prevails, it’s easy to feel a burst of gratitude. I felt that gratitude when a 60-degree, sunny day came along on a Saturday in which I had nothing planned. I was elated to finally get my face into the sun and my hands into the dirt. Hours of gardening bliss lay in front of me with nothing in my way.
I did a full assessment in my yard of all the neglected trimming, pruning, raking, and bush whacking that needed my attention. No problem that the lawn refuse bin was already full to the hilt. No big deal that my yard gloves were nowhere to be found. I had two hands, plenty of tools and time.
I began the process slowly, reminding myself that my goal was not to clean up the yard but to feel the sun and to notice my body. The cold winter coupled with a busy and stressful season had made me feel tense. The sun has a way of melting that tension away. So, I set my intention: May I let the sun work its magic.
I revved up the power trimmer. Cutting down last year’s growth felt like cutting away at the tension in my body. There was a point where I hit resistance. Rather than pushing my way through the resistance, I noticed and stopped. I stepped to the other side of the bush and came at the trimming from another direction. The old growth fell with ease. Another layer of tension gone.
Mindfulness does not bulldoze through resistance. You have to work gently at the edges, a little here and a little there...particularly during the times of greatest pain and difficulty. – Jon Kabat-Zinn
All of the clippings stacked on the tarp, I stood up and stretched my back. I listened to the wind gently blowing in the trees and I felt the sun on my face. Pillow, my white fluffy terrier, ran out the doggy door and greeted me with a wagging tail. I got on my hands and knees to meet her excitement face-to-face and I was rewarded with the sweetest lick on the face. Her joy and my joy merged with the sunshine and the quiet and the smell of dirt and grass. And it was the simplest moment possible.
The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. -Rumi
The winds came the next day. The howling, piercing winds that are typical of spring in Colorado. And then it snowed for two days after that. My moment in the sun was fleeting like it has been in the weeks since that day. I’m still waiting for spring to stick. But when I’m patient and aware and less attached, I recognize that it doesn’t really matter. The weather does what the weather is going to do. It’s like our teenage son who brings his loving, joyous self to the dinner table one night and his grunts and shrugs the next night. I can’t predict which version of him will arrive, so I just stay open and available and present. And when those moments of connection arrive, I am ready. Just as I am ready to greet the sun when it comes out.
I find it useful to reflect on a few things that I learned that day:
· If I can’t find my gardening gloves, my bare hands will do
· Where there’s resistance, I can step away and then proceed from a different direction
· When Pillow walks over to greet me, I can get on my paws and greet her back.
· I can listen to the wind and smell the grass. I don’t know when that moment will come again.
It’s complicated, this life. The weather doesn’t always behave how we would like. We desire for things to be a certain way but that doesn’t always work out. And then we suffer a lot on account of our attachments. The moments of simplicity feel too rare and fleeting. But there is the beautiful possibility that lies in the next moment. And the next moment. Each moment, ripe with possibility. If we are open.
It reminds me of a quote that keeps me both honest and present.
Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful. – L.R. Knost