Practicing Presence And Expecting Rewards

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Growing vegetables, flowers and herbs has taught me so many wonderful lessons, not the least of which is developing habits of presence.  It's amazing to watch something as tiny as a seed, become a plant just bursting with abundance that feeds my family.  But that bounty that comes from a small seed requires diligence and care.  It means you have to know the difference between a weed and a young plant.  It means you need to water and give fertilizer even when it's hot outside and you're especially tired (in fact it's even more important then).  It means you have to get dirty and sweaty sometimes, and you have to watch out for things that might harm or even kill the fruits of your labor.  

It means you have to notice the needs of something outside yourself.

And it helps to pay attention to the needs inside yourself too.

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Look Deeper

On this day, I visited The Wild Animal Park all by myself.  I like to do that sometimes because I don't feel pressured by anyone else's time table or artistic motivation.  It was a sunny day with big white puffy clouds and the temperature was perfect for wandering around taking pictures.  I actually like being alone, especially among animals.  I kind of got the feeling this bird felt the same way about me.  He was about as tall as my lens and came right up to the fence and looked directly at me for some time.  Or maybe he was looking at himself in the glass, who knows.

It makes me sad to think people can't see God when they look around them.  His art is so much more beautiful and complex than mine could ever hope to be.  I see Him in every detail.

All I really do is reflect it.

A Little Bird Told Me

I have heard it said, that if you want to take great pictures, then you should stand in front of great things. I certainly feel like I do a good amount of that. But for some reason... my own heart always returns to the little, ordinary moments of my life again and again and as a result, so does my camera. I have seen some extraordinary things; the magic of skyscrapers, the swell of an ocean, the magnificence of a pride of lions, the spray of a whale and her baby, the vast expanse of a desert, the stimulating nightlife of Las Vegas, the grandest of canyons, the birth of babies and the mind numbing beauty of a Hawaiian sunset.

But do you know what still moves me the most? The feather details of a small bird, the swirls of a single flower about to give up its last breath, the way dew looks like a rainbow of diamonds first thing in the morning, the shadows cast by something standing in the light, the way wet rocks shine, the way a robin somehow instinctively knows that if it shoves its beak into some healthy wet grass, it will inevitably find some breakfast, without too much effort.

The truth is, I really don't think there is anything on earth that couldn't be classified as a "great and extraordinary thing." And these in between moments ... what I sometimes think of as "valley moments" are where I often find true greatness shines. That is a very good place to spend prepping for what I perceive as peaks. And I often wonder if we have it backward; if our valleys are really our peaks.

"Remember the little things, for one day you may wake up and find that they were the big things." - Robert Brault
 

With Crystal Clarity

For now we see in a mirror dimly but then face to face. Now we know in part, but then I shall know, just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— 1 Corinthians 13

I spent some time this morning, pondering this:  ..... but the greatest of these, is love. I wonder sometimes... what do we know of real love anymore?  Does the world have hope?  Is there anyone out there with faith enough to stand up and fight for it in a non-violent way? Is it even possible to fight for something without violence? that sounds naive even to me.

I think about the devastating suicide of Robin Williams, the terrible atrocities already committed by ISIS and the suffering of so many in a country far away from me, and in my country, the ridiculous antics of a child who thinks twerking is the way to avert all eyes in her direction and I realize that here, in some ways she's right. She's getting attention and making a fortune at it and who is handing that to her?  We are.  Our dollars place value on what she's doing. But at what cost... not just to her, but to all of us as a society?  

Why do we do these things?  

I read news of earthquakes and droughts and the terrible outbreak of Ebola in Africa.  And then I sit down to write in this blog thinking of all those things and wonder... what can I possibly say? We have such easy lives here, by comparison.  Talking about food, fancy vacations, flowers, my cushy life? We fill our lives with work and internet and television and if we're lucky... with a few people and things we feel passionate about.  I am grateful for and appreciative of those things in my life that bring me passion and joy but sometimes I think I'd have a much different world view if I lived it through the eyes of a doctor risking his own life to save those dying of a deadly disease, in the mind of a journalist who knelt before his executioner, in the fear experienced by a refugee high in the hills running from terrorists, in the heart of a man ravaged by thoughts of a disease of the body now joining forces with the demon of the soul he has already fought for decades.  We feel so far removed from these people and things but we are not.  We should not be.

I was taught that the Ultimate Love was embodied in great suffering. Somewhere deep inside, I still believe that.  But I do not pretend to understand any of this.  And oh... how I want to.  Not dimly, but with open eyes that see with crystal clarity, the One that really matters.

 

Thirty One Flavors

When I was eighteen, I lived with my dad in a little apartment in Southern California.  I have a lot of memories of that time with him, and each of them is a jewel I keep deep inside me in that space for all my most precious things.  I called him one morning freaking out and he couldn't understand a word I was saying so he rushed home and found me in the kitchen with his welding mask, gloves, boots and pants on holding them up with one hand and wielding a spatula in the other. I was screeching something about cockroaches and smacking them with my very ineffective weapon while trying to make sure I didn't have any exposed skin in case one decided to jump up and bite me. I've never seen him laugh so hard in my life.  Turns out they were only little crickets and dad took care of them in short order while I sheepishly returned his welding gear to its proper place.  He still loves to tell that story.

We lived on the second floor of the apartment building and I sometimes did the shopping and cooking.  I think that's when I really began to learn what foods I personally preferred and which ones I didn't because I had a lot of freedom to choose. My parents had recently divorced and my brothers and sister lived with my mom. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of several years so I think we just kind of understood where the other was at.  He turned his walk in closet, into a "prayer closet" and he kept his piano and guitar and all of his music in there and I would lay in bed at night with my window open listening to the sound of his voice singing softly to me from behind his closed door mixed with the traffic noise from the freeway outside.  It was actually a beautiful way to fall asleep.  We had a Christmas tree covered in tiny blue lights and silver tinsel because he loved to decorate it that way and I could see it from my bed.  I still smile when I see a blue tree, which isn't very often.:) We had this crazy siamese cat who would run around the apartment and claw his way up the drapes until he reached the top and then throw himself off like a kamikaze.  I thought it was pretty funny but I don't think dad did.  

Sometimes, on the weekend we'd head down the street to Baskin Robbins Ice Cream shop where they had 31 flavors to choose from but we always chose the exact same thing. Dad liked banana splits with hot fudge and I always ordered a Pralines and Cream ice cream cone. It didn't really matter to me what we were eating.  The best part was that we'd take it outside to a bench and then just talk to each other in the sunshine.  I tried to eat mine really slow.  I treasured that time with him so much.  It was relaxed and special and I never had to be anything but me.  Every once in awhile we'd switch it up and head to the Thrifty Drugstore. They didn't have as many flavors but they scooped out their ice cream with these funny cylindrical scoopers so it came out looking like a short tube.  You could get 3 scoops for a dollar back then but I usually opted for just two.

Over the years, dad developed a lactose intolerance and now he can't eat dairy without some uncomfortable consequences.  But he's coming to visit me in a few weeks and I've been experimenting with non-dairy ice cream that uses coconut cream as its base.  I even found some pretty yummy non-dairy chocolate chips to go on top.  And I have a very comfy bench under a willow tree by the water in the sunshine just waiting for him.  He still loves to talk story.

I saw an interesting video yesterday where a woman interviewed several adults about how they feel when they eat chocolate and then asked the same question of a few children.  The adults said things like "guilty", "like I'll have to go for a run after work now", "like I'm numb", or "I just don't eat it".  But oh from the mouths of babes... The children said, "happy", "grateful", and "good".  I think someone should come up with the "Eat Like A Child" diet.  

I wish you all a happy, grateful, good memory filled food day today.:)