I learned something this week about how to see things in a different light.
Paul and I took a walk in Sleepy Hollow, New York. It was cold, even though we were past the first day of spring. Maple trees lined the cinder path. The sky was azure blue. I was feeling sad and wanted to climb out of my mood.
My first thought was, “How long will it be until these trees leaf out?” I was already imagining an abundance of green and the scent of new-mown grass. Just then the wind picked up and we pulled the collars around our necks. Looking for the bright side, I said to Paul, “Without leaves on the trees, there’s much more light.”
That simple observation shifted my feeling from longing to loving the moment.
The way we choose to see something can change its meaning as fast as you can say “spring!” Meaning making can be a meditation.
Look, and look again.
What story calls you to see things in a different light?
I love reading how you see the world about you, always seeking and learning from what you see, Eileen.
In painting, we’re taught that you create lightness by contrasting it with shadow. In other words, if you want a color to look bright, don’t add white, put it next to something dark.
In my novel “The Winter Boy,” a wise woman storyteller (named quite coincidentally, Alleen) recounts, “If I did not see, it must be in how I sought to see. So I changed my manner of focus. I did not look at the substance of the sand, but at the light and shadows that played upon it. Eventually, I saw light and shadow as the definition of sight, delineating shapes to my eye. I used the minute lines of shadow and saw them as boundaries of space between substance.” Taking the thought further, she adds later in the tale, “We are all of the same substance, the same life. Though there are many differences between us, those are merely the shadows that delineate our boundaries. Our light is the same.”
Eileen and Alleen. More than the names are similar. Alleen was born (and named) in my mind long before you and I met. But I often feel that what you write in these essays echo her lessons too.
We really do see the world similarly Sally. Your writing is beautiful. I hope you are selling many copies of “The Winter Boy.” I love the subtlety and nuance with which you describe how to see light…and that ultimately our light is the same. Just beautiful.
At times, I DO wonder if I am one of the few whose joy for life does not depend on seasons. , though you particularly know that the beauty — that my many journeys to enjoy summers in Antarctica have given me — would be able to “hold me strong” in any adversity in life. As you do, I love to see the first crocuses appear in the snow and the first shows of green in bushes and trees. They are beauty at its best — and admiration for the wonders of nature that never cease.
But – my own personal sense of well-being and being uplifted – stems from beliefs held within. I don’t normally contemplate them . . . as each moment of each day is a treasure and I try to use them well. Perhaps if words are needed, well, it would be “getting out of one’s self” and by word or deed, lifting others. I find it more gratifying than being what might be considered “interesting” — to instead be interested in others — listening more than speaking. But by listening to others, we are continually learning and growing ourselves. Often, others in need, need nothing more than a person who cares about them. But if there are avenues they have yet to pursue, I will do whatever seems needed to help them get out of the “bog” that can be pretty horrific and scary.
I enjoy the change of seasons and observe them closely as a nature lover to the extreme, but my love for life and people is not a seasonal thing. . and every day I am uplifted by often the smallest of things that touch me. That — and the knowledge that I am “still around” is pretty amazing to me — and could I ask for more? I think not.
What a healthy outlook on life, Joan. You inspire me. Warmly, Eileen
Lovely reminder of choices, in the moment, in our lives. The vitality of view. Thank you, Eileen. Appreciate the simplicity and depth of your insight and wisdom.
Here’s what it brought to mind for me.
Many years ago, my young daughter and I were held up for hours at an airport waiting for storms to clear. Had run through all the books we had, and the car games I could remember, and even though, as a life-long meditator, I have a pretty good tolerance for boredom, after five hours, I’d had my fill.
They loaded us onto the plane, and then we had to wait another hour. You can imagine the frustration.
As we finally took off, I turned to my daughter and praised her,”Sweetheart, I really appreciate how well you have been waiting.”
“Waiting?” she replied with a perplexed expresssion on her young face. “I haven’t been waiting; I’ve just been here.”
Wow! The wisdom of youth! Thank you for the story about you daughter. I had to blink the tears back as I read.
In New York City, the light on the Hudson is surely telling us that it’s spring. Cold but Spring. Lifts the spirits daily.
all the best
Yes, even the frozen Lake up here is bellowing from its depths. Awake! Awake! It will be here soon. Warmly, Eileen
The magic and mystery of life. Pure and simple. The seasons have their reasons. The sun, it’s perennial inner glow. The robin’s song, the cricket’s chirp, the bullfrog’s “ribbett”, the woodpecker’s, “tat-a-tat-tat”, the chickadee’s, “dee, dee, dee.”
A bud becomes a bloom, tried and true. The roots go down, the chutes grow up. Springtime is reborn, summer’s just around the corner!
We may not understand the whys and wherefores. Like the seasons, there are reasons. Enjoy the moments passing in time. Many delights await; cuddle a kitty, snuggle a pup, pat a pony, wriggle your toes by a roaring fire, visit friends, enjoy deep conversations, savor the moment, enjoy the here and now. Don’t fret. Don’t regret. Live , laugh, LOVE!
Speaking of which, I hope your driving clinic went well. I got caught up in a busier than anticipated weekend. Sorry I didn’t call. Hard not to regret, but we’ll be in touch!
This past week one of my oldest and dearest friends from freshman year at college passed after a 3 year bout of ALS. My wife Carol and I flew to California last month for a final visit–so glad we made the trip-his wife, sons, and grandchild were all there. Making that safari was one of the toughest I have undertaken but I was so greatfull to have had the 2 day visit as a coda to a 57 year friendship. It takes courage on both sides but is so important to not avoid old friends at such mom ents.
I’m so sorry for your loss, John. 57 years is a very long time for friends. I think the hardest thing about such a loss is the loss of shared memory. It’s hard to keep having a conversation with oneself. But the memory itself is a reminder of the presence of friendship. May he be with you in this way often. Love, Eileen
Your article reminds me of the many paintings Claude Monet painted with the concept of how changing light effects a cathedral, or haystack for example. On one of my husband and my travels
to Europe, we stayed in a small hotel near the Cathedral Rouen in Rouen. Both of us were reminded of Monet’s many paintings of the Cathedral Rouen– light light light dominating the way the building looks at different times of the day and in differing atmospheres. Impressionism and light go “hand in hand”, walking through museums, private art collections and in hidden spaces all
over the world! To feel sad needs exploring, not just changing the way we see things. Check
your health, step outside in the morning, breath the air and stretch, easily. See, if these steps work, quickly. Oh, The Philadelphia Museum of Art is planning a major exhibit of Impressionism–the largest, ever! It begins in May 2015. Seeing so much light at one time may keep all dazzled for a few months. A HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! Light and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
create color and smiles–oh, those little kids…
I’m so glad to know about the Monet exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in May! I hope we get to go. And yes, I think of kids for they have an ability to be present. Something for each of us to learn.
Eileen, One more thought… the children’s library is a strong memory. Imagine the largest children’s library in the world, up to date with many helping hands reading to kids! I guess the computer has brought that idea “home” in some ways. Wonderful people do special things for people and society. That thought, alone, brings light to my mind… You have done special things for people.
Thank you Elaine. Nice thought and I appreciate your compliment.
While I was working at a research laboratory in Bethesda we were joined by a young lady from Colombia, South America. As it was January, and she had never before been away from home, I apologized for our drab mid-winter landscape.
“Oh, no, no, it is beautiful, wonderful, with all of those lovely shades of brown and gray, and the bright white snow, and the delicate branches!”
It then occurred to me she had never seen a forest when the trees were not hidden by dense vegetation. This girl from the tropics taught me to appreciate winter scenes as I never had before.
Ellicott (Mac) McConnell
What a wonderful story Mac. We are so lucky to live in a world with such diversity; to be able to have both the bare bones of branches followed by thick layers of leaves. This is what I love about the four seasons.
Brilliant insight into appreciating the richness of the present landscape of our lives, however subtle it may be!
(And I loved reading all the poignant comments.)
Years ago, someone made the observation about childrearing that “the moments drag, but the time flies.” Three decades later, I find myself scratching my head wondering where the time went.
Before we know it, we’ll be in the throes of yet another summer of record heat no doubt making the slow unveiling of spring – the light shining through leafless trees – the more precious. Indeed, in the hurried, harried world we live in, “slow” has become something to be the more cherished.
I love what Jon Kabat-Zinn says on the subject:
“We know that things unfold according to their own nature. We can remember to let our lives unfold the same way….Through it all, we attempt to bring balance to the present moment, understanding that in patience lies wisdom. Knowing that what will come next will be determined in large measure by how we are now.”
Dear Felicity, thank you for insights and the quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn. We are at a similar phase of parenting and I find comfort in that, as well as the present moment. Love, Eileen
I was reading about Exxon and a world fighting Climate Change… and bounced eventually here and Your insight brightened my mood too today, very funny, totally unexpected…:):):)… Thank you. I actually wasn’t expecting that from the cold bare scene…a wonderful piece of positive wisdom > I’ll pass it onto my kids too. I’ll send them the link. Happy Spring and Much Thanks…!!!:) NOW I am ready to to start my day…!!!:) even though it doesn’t look like Spring here yet either…:)
What a fun twist of circumstance Timothy! And appropriate too because my philanthropy is dedicated almost exclusively to stemming climate change-in particular to stopping coal, which accounts for 40% of carbon emissions. Here’s to shedding more light on these matters of local and global impact. I hope you’ll become a regular reader. I’m honored that you passed this on to your kids!
Thank you! for the great thoughts Eileen and a pleasure to pass on such great thoughts to my kids. The quote page as well has some great gems that we will revisit. Also yes, congratulations on all your Family foundations works on the causes of carbon emissions and the many others of course.
I also read on your Foundation’s site that Pakistan is possibly making moves towards cleaner power infrastructure and that was astounding to me. I thought they would be one of the last nations to change, because of the strong influences of the coal lobbyists there and a difficult political arena (to put it mildly), so for me, that country is an indicator that there is much hope for many other nations to switch over.,..and at home in the US too, I see you are champions in cleaning up the ecology there as well. Well done!
I guess the booming 20th century was such a busy century for all of us as a society here in NA, that we forgot to clean up after ourselves…:) So time to start…
It’s an exciting time in history to see things changing everywhere so fast and it must be exciting for philanthropists to be able to implement programs much faster, at all corners of the globe and get almost instant feedback on them as they progress. An exciting time to be alive to be sure! Best regards!
Thanks for writing back Timothy. It’s good to have your thoughts.
The way I brighten my day is to read your latest blog.
Works every time. xo
You are dear to write. Im glad if I can add some cheer to you during this hard time in your life. We’ll be thinking of you and Warren on the 18th, with love galore.