Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Today has Never Happened Before

Last year I struggled at Christmas time, and I think it boiled down to the fact that despite my best efforts, I was not able to recreate what we'd had in prior years. Despite the traditions we held to, despite the constant chorus of carols, it fell short of magic for me. I wrote a poem. A lament of sorts.

But then it began to dawn on me that I was looking at this all wrong. So I wrote yet another post: Fresh Christmas, and I felt better because I had a plan. But I'll be honest--it felt thin and unsatisfying, because I came to it barely in time to give it a try.

However, now that another year has sprinted by, I'm having a chance to practice in real time what I glimpsed last year: to add to my collection a newly minted, never-happened-quite-like-this Christmas. And I'm glad to report that the sadness of last year is not gnawing at me like a hungry shadow.

Instead,  I'm finding that this year, I want Christmas to be whatever it will be, and what it is--a day, a season that has not happened in quite this way before. Rather than trying to make it fit a pattern I absorbed when I was a child and then have tried to re-capture every year since pretending lost its realness, I am watching Christmas 2016 unfold.

This is not a lesser season for the fact that members of our family are halfway across the country, and others halfway across the world. It is not a lesser season because gift giving this year looks different. It is not lesser because activities are not as group oriented as on other Christmases. Something can only be lesser by comparison.
And how can we judge as lesser a day that has never happened just because it doesn't mimic one that has?

To re-create Christmas is an impossible task. Even if every piece matches, we're older, changed, and it's not the first time. In the act of re-creation, the magic of discovery is replaced with the damper of comparison.

And it is not by comparison we discover new treasures. It is by viewing each day, including this Christmas as a one-of-a-kind event, a day, a season that has never happened before and will never happen again in exactly this 2016 way. We can do familiar things with an eye for the unfolding of the new day, and let each variation and repetition of traditions be part of a unique occasion.

In holding too tightly to Christmas past, we can miss the wonder and the gift in Christmas present. In measuring this day against others, we risk missing the wonder it holds, risk not being fully present or fully enjoying what is. So I don't know what Christmas 2016 looks like.

I'm  going to find that out, one new discovery at a time. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Eyes to See

In a world of information, where every other new blip is negative, it's easy to feel discouraged about the state of the earth. But the truth is that all around us, common every day people are carrying on their lives with courage, perserverance, and kindness.

I've been thinking: what if there was a Good News Gatherer--a person who ferreted out all the acts small and big that separate humans from inhumanity? What if we could begin to hear about all the good stuff? All over the world there are brave and wonderful things happening. Inventions. Breakthroughs. Grandmas and grandpas that know their grandchildren are the best thing ever and who celebrate these little and big people with delighted eyes.

I'd also like to see the truth about high schoolers
featured, these up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow who despite their ubiquitous electronic devices are sweet and savvy and full of dreams. They have a high value for loyalty and belonging, teamwork and equality. I'd love to hear more about what is right with them and less about what is wrong.

Seriously, how many more scary stories do we need about all the bad things that can, are, and have happened?!--so much so that this beautiful, precious world of ours feels more like a war zone than the cradle of creativity that it really is.

Yes, there's bad stuff out there. Yes, there are people who do bad things, and I'm not advocating we pretend otherwise. But what about the tragedy of going through the gift of each day in fear, in battle armor, scaring ourselves and our kids about possible catastrophes and things to fight against,
while being blind to the unwavering beauty of the people and the world around us--hunkered down in preparation for the apocolypse when all around us eternity unfolds?

It's easy to be scared: Vaccine disasters. Isis. Polictical bashing, failures, and "what's our nation coming to?" is plastered everywhere. But what about the good news? People rescuing, caring for, empowering other people. Helping. Feeding. Loving. These things are newsworthy, too. Good things are happening in this old world of ours. The next generation of mothers and fathers are having
children and loving them as fiercely and wisely and with as much passion as previous generations. Sure, there are different challenges and different philosophies. But have you watched a young mom cudddle her baby lately? That's a timeless beauty unfolding right before our eyes.

And then there's the everyday bravery of farmers in the field, up before dawn planting, cultivating, harvesting. Mothers and fathers coaching soccer. Brothers and sisters laughing and loving and playing together. It's happening all around us in big and small ways, and if the truth were known, more frequently than the bad stuff.

Fear is invasive, but it doesn't stand a chance against hope and joy and love. And here's some more good news--we get to choose where to focus. That's not living in denial. That's living in balance. Evil is not greater than good. One tiny little candle causes darkness to flee, and we need to be reminded of that. Why live in fear when you can live in hope and love?

So I'm thinking we need a revolution of good news gatherers. What if each of us set out to discover one brave or beautiful or precious moment out of each day, and flood our world with the proper ratio of good to bad. I'm not talking about instagram moments that present an unreal picture, as if every moment of our lives is amazing and photo-worthy, but the true riches in the everyday-ness of life. There's so  much good news and so many great people around us, like gold and silver and precious stones laying right in  plain sight. We just need eyes to see them.

Check out some good stuff happening: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/

And here's another good link: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/the-america-i-know-the-humanity-i-know/

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Being Known

We all want to be known, don't we?
--Known for who we really are. Our essence, the real us under all our socially acceptible or unacceptible behaviors and herculean efforts to do--and be--that which others will value. I find this exhausting: rather like a merry-go-round that is spinning way too fast to jump off from without sustaining injury, but from which I cast longing eyes to the stillness of the ground beyond vertigo and white-knuckled hanging.

I suppose that's rather dramatic for a quiet July morning. Certainly my current oasis of trickling stream, hot coffee, and cool mountain-morning air seems the exact opposite. But in this quiet moment I'm wondering why we keep that inner merry-go-round whirling. We want to be known, and yet--

Ultimately, I think it boils down to fear.

Fear that if we are seen--really seen for who we are with all our bumps and baggage and not just the good stuff we hope people see--that they will not find us worth knowing. Doesn't that phrase just put a weight on your chest and a twist in your gut? It does in mine. But here's what I'm finally understanding on a more than intellectual level:

I'm just me.

That includes all my bumps and baggage. And while I'm seeking to systematically chuck that baggage and grow more whole, if someone cannot look beyond it and find the real me--mistakes, shortcomings, and all--then I will never be completely safe with that person. If I am only "safe" as long as I don't scare them by my thoughts, choices, or actions, then I am not truly safe. It's merely a momentary lull.

But to be known and safe--now that is a rare gift. 

If we're casting about in our minds trying to think of even one relationship where that level of peace exists, I've got to say, the good news is that every one of us has at least one; God knows us each completely. Loves us with our bumps, baggage, and beauty, though these have absolutely nothing to do with why He loves and values us, and I find that in the face of this level of acceptance, fear dissapates.

He sees the real us. The us that He created and called very good. It is said that we are not born afraid. We learn fear. Well, I'm thinking it's high time we unlearn it. Hop off that whirling round of performing to get love, and find out how amazing it feels to be as happy about the real us as He is,.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Today's Little Wonders

Ha. I just scrolled back about four years on this blog to an entry titled "Drawn by Pleasure." I find that lo and behold, I am on the very same quest. Still. Or again. Or perhaps both. From the standpoint that I should be a pro at something I've been working on for four years, this was not an encouraging thought. But on the other hand--I'm thinking that it is still my quest because this is one of my passions in life--to discover the big and small joys of the present, to be fully alive in this moment in which I live, and to see the wonder in the everyday.

So I ask myself what I have learned about this in four years, and I am glad to say that here are several things I know a bit deeper now than I did then:

1. Busyness moves me out of the zone of seeing the little things: breathing the air, gazing on the sky. Well, I still breathe the air, but I don't even
notice that. When I load my schedule, dovetailing appointments, deadlines, and chauffeuring teens, I sprint through the moments. I live for the future, a nebulous intangible promise of rest delayed by this frenetic effort of mine to keep all the irons in my fire equally hot.

2. I'm in charge of not just what I put on my schedule, but how much I allow that self-imposed merry-go-round of life to pressure me with oughts, shoulds, and guilt for less-than-brilliant follow-through. No one else can slow my  merry-go-round down. Just me.

3. No matter how often I find myself in one of these times when I'm moving too fast, feeling out of touch with myself and wondering how I got there, I can start over. I can slow down. Rework my schedule to include more moments to smell the roses, sip the coffee, laugh with loved ones. If I scale back on the activities that are crowding out these small and oh-so-vital-to-me wonders, I will be much more able to live in the present.

4. And finally, I'm learning that it's okay. For me and any of you that might be reading this and seeing yourself reflected, we need to remember that we're eternal beings. If we rush through some of our moments, in the long run it will still be a mere blip on our timeline. We'll lose a lot more of our peace and enjoyment if we spend our time regretting what has already passed. It's the now that needs our focus. This morning. This minute in which I'm watching the sun come up, hearing a whippoorwill calling in the creek bottom, and yes, sipping a good cup of Colombian Supremo. What does this moment hold for you? What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting?

These moments are gifts. But we'll whiz right by them in our busyness if we're not mindful. I'm in the process (once again) of re-working my calendar to include a lot more of these moments; and if your merry-go-round of a schedule is moving way too fast, I invite you to join me!
These Little Wonders

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Magic of Children

I just returned from participating in the 48th annual Warrensburg Children's Literature Festival, and I want to say that it was an honor and a pleasure to get to stand before a classroom of youngsters and  take them on a journey with me.

...Imagine you're a cowboy.

 It's December, and you and your buddy are riding on the Colorado mesa searching for stray cattle.

And then it starts to snow...

I loved watching them dive deep into the scene. Loved introducing them to one of my most favorite places on the planet, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, and incidentally, the setting for my latest book for middle graders, The Flight of the Cliff Bird.

Their eyes were alight with the magic of imagination, wide with wonder, and for those few brief moments, we became cliff dwellers together.

The classroom fades, and it is just us and the scent of sagebrush and the comfort of sun-warmed sandstone at our backs. The cliff dwellings begin to glow with the light of cooking fires and a cool wind sweeps up from the canyon floor.

Don't let anyone tell you that this generation of children is somehow lesser. Somehow lacking. Yes, they're dealing with elements that we of earlier generations did not--electronic games, images, accessibility beyond belief.

But consider this: they are dealing with the challenges they have been handed. Denial is not a good option. Even if they were to live the electronics-free lifestyle of earlier days, when they emerge into the real world at age 18, they would be handicapped to deal with the freedom and opportunities of a world that is constantly progressing. Better, then, to help them learn to steward those freedoms.

They are not a lesser generation. I saw in these children the same intelligent wonder, the same innate questioning, the same ability to explore the unknown and unseen as that of children from earlier decades. I'm excited for them and for the world which they will in their turn curate for a generation not yet born.

Their eyes were full of wonder and hope, and although I was taking them on a journey back in time, they left me with renewed expectation for the future.