Soaring and Grounding

As a child, I looked to the towering clouds, capped with billows, and imagined walking atop them like I’d watched the Care Bears do. I imagined that’s what heaven would be like when I got there someday. As a teen, Jonathan Livingston Seagull brought me such joy, such heights to which to aspire, the tips of his wings touched with light as he soared to such transcendent levels. As an adult, I watched birds glide on the wind, effortlessly floating above the rest of the world and its worries. I dreamed my own body could fly and always felt great disappointment when my legs started to drift back toward the ground. I gathered images and ideas for tattoos with silhouettes of birds, wings spread, to serve as a physical reminder of opening up, letting go, and ascending.

There is a line, though, where metaphysical musings turn into depression and anxiety.

I began to feel a great sadness watching birds wheel through the sky, their wide open wings and swooping motions a freedom I would never have. Watching the clouds edged with light filled me with a longing that I would never have the peace I imagined lived among their water crystals. No amount or configuration of ink etched on my skin would seep that sense of freedom into my soul.

And then as I sat on a shaded deck this morning, forcing myself to focus on a wisp of cloud and nothing else, staring into the middle distance, forcing all thoughts from my head or repeating a prayed mantra – a pair of birds streaked across, running a parallel line with the shore in front of me. Their pointed wings reminded me of the swallows with which I’ve been obsessed. They darted and swooped and disappeared behind a house a few doors down.

It occurred to me then that I can continue to stay focused on the peace and quiet in front of me while noticing the promise of freedom. I can long to be truly free, but that doesn’t stop me from embracing the joys in the here and now while I wait. I will not be free until my soul flies up to heaven, but I can open my heart now to accept what this life has to offer. I can use this time between now and then to wait and lament and be miserable or live in each moment mindfully soaking up what is there instead of not seeing it because I’m so fixated on what I don’t have.

Photo by Jennifer Butler Basile

Paradox

Snow on lilac blooms
Snowflakes on lilac buds

Melting on the green back of the sandbox

Sunshine shower

Birds chirping, snow falling

Springtime in New England

spring snow

My daughter wanted to set up the sandbox today.  She’s been asking to hang the birdhouses outside for a month now.  She and her older sister roller skated in the sand lining the edge of the road.  She finally gave up when it started snowing.  It’s springtime now, but the scene outside the window doesn’t look like it.

With an early release from school, I declared it a day to run around the backyard like nuts.  My three year-old was the only one with me.  I don’t waannnnnna go outside, said the eight year-old.  Can I have a snack first, asked the five year-old.  Belly full, she’s the one that hatched all those vernal equinox-inspired plans.  She has a very real sense of injustice.  When she awoke the first day of winter and saw no snow on the ground, she was pissed.  And now?  No Easter decorations up even though there’s snow on the ground?  What’s up, Mom?basket of snow

The snow today actually had my back, though.  The first flakes floated to the ground mere minutes after her latest protestation about an empty sandbox.  One good thing about a schizophrenic mood change on Mother Nature’s part.  And one that I should be able to appreciate given my latest post!

There really should be nothing bizarre about snow showers two days into spring, though.  Just because the calendar says it’s spring, doesn’t mean that we should wake up one morning to instantly green grass and gardens abloom.  Two days ago it was winter.  Two days ago snow was de rigeur.  The passing of seasons is a gradual progression.  Leave it to humans to expect instant results.  Leave it to us to restrict the moving of the days in tiny boxes on a calendar and expect the weather to follow suit.

It was bizarre, though, to hear the symphony of birds gearing up for spring as the snow fell.  They were a twitter with nest-building, bug-hunting, flit-flying from tree to tree.  They seemingly paid no mind to the fat, wet flakes flying around them.  Maybe I should take a page from their book – rejoicing in the expectation of spring, knowing it’s coming, instead of lamenting the fact that it’s not here yet.  There is beauty amidst the cold and dark.  And there is the promise of warmth and light at the other end of it.

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