3: Omne Trium Perfectum – Making Sense of it All

Lucky Three or Not
Things come in threes beleaguers my thoughts. A month ago, I received word that my beloved border collie, Bess, passed away while I traveled in Scotland. Last week I received word that my best male friend from college passed away. Memories flash of the three close friends I lost a few years ago — all within nine months (3 x 3) time. Murmurings below the surface question if a third heartbreak will follow.

Contrary aphorisms abound for this popular number. Three’s a charm predicts success after two failures. Or a third misfortune can follow two others. A third soldier lighting a cigarette from the same source was considered unlucky on the WWI battlefield since a sniper could see the first light, aim on the second, and fire on the third.

Similar “superstitions” like don’t walk under a ladder or don’t open an umbrella in the house, I consider more as practical warnings. After all, anything can be dropped from working high above, and an umbrella’s cuspate spokes can be dangerous and obstructive indoors. 

brooke-campbell-Rw2-Y0nSIKQ-unsplashThat Timeless Number Three
My search for a deeper understanding of the number three revealed its timeless phenomenon. Pythagoreans, for instance, believed the number three to be the first triangular number. Besides its strength in triangles, tripods, and pyramids, the notorious number three prevails throughout history and cultures worldwide:

The Trident
Photo by Hans Braxmeier on Pixabay

Ancient Symbolism:
– A trident appears beside Neptune, Shiva, and farmers.

– The Celtic triskele’s three spirals symbolize the Present World-where we live and exist, the Other World-home of our ancestors, spirit guides and deities, and the Celestial World.
– The three-petaled French fleur-de-lis originally represented the commoners, nobility, and clergy.  In other cultures it’s also symbolized life, perfection, and light. 

Mythology:
– Greek Cronus fathered three sons – Zeus, Poseidon and Hades; Norse Borr also fathered three sons –  Odin, Vili, and Vé.

– Mayans believed mankind was created in three attempts (flood destroyed the first man made of clay; a storm washed away the second man made of wood; but the third man made from maize was from whom all are descended).
– Celtic gods and goddesses often appear in groups of three.

camels-1150075_1280
Photo by Kevin Phillips on Pixabay

Religion:
Besides the Trinity, the number three winds throughout Christianity as when it was reported that three wise men presented three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh), and Jesus’ ministry lasted three years.

– Buddhism’s Three Jewels are The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha.
– The Torah uses the number three for Jews to mediate between two opposing or contradictory values.
– Universal chi, human plane chi, and earth chi compose Taoism’s Three Pure Ones.
– Zoroastrianism’s three virtues are Humata (good thoughts), Hukhta (good words) and Hvarshta (good deeds).
– Hindu’s Trimūrti triple deity is Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.

The_Hindu_Gods_Vishnu,_Shiva,_and_Brahma
10th century artwork of Hindu trinity

– Islam’s triple talaq is a Muslim divorce where a husband pronounces three times talaq (Arabic word for divorce).
– The Bahá’í faith’s three principles are the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity.
– Neopagan religions revere the Triple Goddess deity of maiden, mother and crone.

Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes:
Remember The Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice, or Goldie Locks and the Three Bears?

The Count of Three:
– Arithmetic, reading, and writing are academic basics.

– “You’re out!” after three strikes in baseball, and three outs end an inning.
– Actions requiring synchrony often count to three like one-two-three “Say cheese!”

Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

Music:
– Music expresses feelings, ideas and moods.
– A chord consists of three notes.
– Music’s three main elements are melody, rhythm, and harmony.

Art:
Composition is based on the Rule of Thirds.

– Artists create with three primary colors of red, yellow and blue.
– Writers have a beginning, middle and end. 

Nature and the Environment:
– Physics, chemistry, and biology are the three types of natural laws.

– The physical environment consists of land, sea, and sky.
– Folklore and religions describe life in heaven, hell, and on earth.

Medicine and Science:
India’s Ayurvedic medicine revolves around three doshas — vata, pitta and kapha.
– Variation, heredity, and selection are the three principles of evolution.
– Personality theory is based on the id, the ego and the superego.

The Unity of Three
Three can be an expression of unity as in father, mother and child or how one can become three as in me, myself and I. Of course, we’ve been told three’s a crowd but three is also a tie-breaker. Perhaps one is too solitary, and two is too black and white final. It is three that offers possibility like a shade of grey as in this, that, other, or door 1-2-or 3.

The number three appears almost everywhere.  What do you think of the number three?  Has it played any significance in your life?

Three Deep
What is it that makes three so powerful and for years on end?  Yogis access intuition through their third eye. Some may deem consideration of three as linear thinking or apophenia — a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information. For me, observing patterns is a trait I developed in my youth to manage an unpredictable home life. Even if erroneous, considering the next possibility eliminated the shock when voices escalated and doors slammed. 

My Adult View of Three…
As a gardener, I understand plants need earth, water, and air. Three-leaf clovers make me smile, and I’m cautious near three-leaved poison ivy or oak. My red-white-and blue spirit cherishes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  

I’ve learned that the number three can represent past, present and future, or body, soul and spirit. As the number of completion, I recognize that Bess and my college buddy have lived their cycles of birth, life and death — something that every living creature will experience.  It just is. The way of life.

 

 

Seeing through Obscurity

 

Scotland June 8 2019 598C

Photos of Scotland appear like subdued, opalescent paintings to me. Yet, when viewing these strikingly beautiful landscapes in person, they are just as dream-like.

Scotland June 9 2019 Portree 657C

Visiting Scotland a few weeks ago felt just as surreal in that I was finally fulfilling a lifelong dream…but learned early on that my beloved Ceilidh’s Bess passed. As I explored the western coast to the Isle of Skye then through the northwest Geopark, Scotland’s sweeping misty lens rendered surprising transparency into my own life.

Pay attention to how you feel in any given place. The words came back to me. Is the energy uplifting or downcast? Spirit-filled or draining? Am I feeling joy? Fear?††

Scotland June 8 2019 536C

Wrapped among impassioned layers of enchanted forests and glens, glacier sculpted landscapes, pristine waters, and steep majestic mountains that hold thousands of years of stories untold, my spirit felt at home in the Highlands. Similarly, but on a wee scale, my northeastern American residence is sheltered in a mountainside of woodland lushness and sparking streams. I know now that north is true for me.

Scotland June 12 2019 Strathnaver Museum 1446C
Strathnaver Museum, Farr Bay, Scotland UK

Learning about the Scottish Clearances and feeling the feelings of my long ago homeland illuminated my ken. I knew truth stood before me.

Scotland June 12 2019 Strathnaver Museum Burning House 1415C
photo of burning house from an exhibit in Strathnaver Museum

In the Clearances, inhabitants were ordered off their land then watched as their houses were burned.

from an exhibit in the Strathnaver Museum
Scotland's opalescent landscape of storm clouds through blue skies overlooking lush hillsides en route from Ullapool to Farr Bay via northwest Geopark June 2019

 

 

Fighting the natural gas pipeline is my personal, modern day experience of the Clearances. I understand powerlessness when forced against one’s will. I know the heartbreak of loss.

Scotland June 12, 2019 Strathnaver Museum Clearances-Ceilidhs 1427

 

The Ups and Downs of Life

raindrops on pink rose buds
Image by silviarita from Pixabay

 

Rain clouds

help flowers grow.

Why should life experiences be any different?

 

Learning through Grief
I began this post before the untimely loss of my best friend — Bess my beloved 14 1/3 year old border collie.  Acceptance soothes my broken heart when acknowledging this will happen to each and everyone of us and everyone we love, that this behest of time is a transformation of life. I continue learning through my loss of Bess…such as doing what I can then letting go, and the power of thought and perspective. I anticipate sharing more from time to time on insights gained through this experience…


“All of life’s experiences are to be either enjoyed or learned from.”

— Alan Cohen

Bess gave me both.


I am curious to know how you process grief. A sage shared this short (18 minute) video with me. Hopefully, you will benefit as well — not just in a time of need.


In Loving Memory of Bess-1

Have You Seen Their Taijitu?

Familiar with that black and white yin-yang symbol, known in ancient Chinese philosophy as taijitu?  Surely you’ve seen dogwood trees gracing the landscape but have you seen their taijitu?

white dogwood flower

Look closely at the blooms on this glorious tree.  Each stunning bract (appearing as one of four flower petals) appears marred like a bruise or singe blemishing its perfect beauty.

pink dogwood flower

The contrasting cleft reminds me of my Qigong instructor’s explanation of the taijitu:  “The small dots on each side indicate that life is not perfect; nothing is 100 percent.”

taijitu-161352_1280-1

That visual concept widened my black and white perspective to realize nothing is all good or all bad.  I became more accepting of life as is.  Even to say a perfectly imperfect life is perfect as it is.  Hmmm.  Seems Mother Nature already knew this.  Am I surprised?


Some More Thoughts on the Small Black and White Circles (in Taijitu)… 

“Located in the areas of their opposite colors, the small circles show that nothing is absolute. In each of the opposing forces there is a small part of the other. In all yin, there is yang and in all yang, there is yin… In every good, there is a little evil and vice versa. Nothing in the universe or in life is simply black or white. Each exists in the other and each needs the other in order to exist.” from the Complete Guide to Yin Yang Meanings for Life, Work, Home and Balance by Feng Shui Practitioner, Sally Painter.

Nature Teacher: Nothing is as Nothing Seems

Opening the compost bin lid reveals decomposing garlic skins, leek greens, maple leaves, apple cores, coffee grounds, and other unidentifiable by now but formerly salubrious consumables. Dirt from last summer’s potted flowers (probably the water-logged ones that couldn’t withstand the heavy rains) is mixed in. I suppose most would view this as rubbish or waste — something without purpose, and quickly dump it into their Glad bag lined garbage can or down the disposal. But, long-time gardening has unearthed a prismatic perspective for me.

My compost bin is my glad bin you could say.  Saving kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable parings, and egg and shrimp shells enhances the soil like nothing else but it also enriches me — and my thinking. These unsightly scraps once endowed delicious meals that contributed to my good health, and will continue to be of benefit. Now they are transforming into nutrient rich soil that will grow my garden full of herbs and vegetables which I will share and eat, and save their parings for the ongoing compost bin. This unattractive, thought-provoking phenomenon is food for thought in its purest form.

Digging deeper and deeper to aerate the compost, I begin seeing below the surface. Nothing is as nothing seems. My thoughts turn to the good in what seems offensive, to the beautiful and nutritious soil that this senescent matter will become, to the duality of the taijitu (yin-yang symbol), that nothing is 100% all good or all bad, and to the stories of people who look like they own nothing but have the most generous hearts. My mind wanders to the elderly who were once young and vibrant, firm and glowing like lemons or frilly and brilliant as carrots but are now devalued and often cast aside because they no longer produce or are too wrinkly or shriveled for our youth worshiping culture to see beyond the outside. I say, “Look below the surface. Unearth those unapparent gems. Nothing is as nothing seems.

lemons-2434941_1280
Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

 

Multilingual without Words…

I communicate in many languages.  But my lexicon doesn’t contain words per se.  No, I’m not talking about texting but of a communication so beautiful no words are necessary.

In seasonal poetry gatherings each of us brings a random poem to read aloud.  The words we share are not our own but the understanding we glean from the words of others.  While some may be serious, others witty, or thought provoking — and on any topic of choosing, a common thread soon appears.  Ah, no doubt the Universe is at play here we chuckle each time we recognize the unintentional theme that connects us together.

The languages I convey do not use technology, social media, or heaven forbid a cell phone.  A verbal silence in hand drumming makes room for magic.  When words do not appear, the voice of the drums speaks profoundly through our creative energy.  Rhythms intertwine, calling, responding, supporting, expressing, wandering, somewhere…but together.

Standing in my kitchen, I cook.  My focus is lovingly preparing a tasty meal, and setting a table that honors the food and the ones it nourishes.  Sitting together then and savoring  this offering of utilitarian sensory art reveals the unseen ingredient.

Sharing the bounty of my garden, holding the door open for someone, offering a smile, anyone can understand.  I do not need to say one word to communicate with anyone anywhere.  All of us can speak the same language when we do not use words.

Multilingual

 

 

 

Nature Teacher: The Natural Timing of Things

Plants wither and die

in time

as we experience it.

Everlasting physical beauty

is contrary

if not impossible

or simply a matter of perception.

Why tamper with the natural timing of life?

Shriveled leaves talk of acceptance.

They do not worry.

Crinkles speak of wisdom.

It is humans who do not understand

and self-inflict suffering,

trying to erase

a life lived

well or not.

Some (not so) Squirrelly Advice for Pleasant Holidays

Mixed Nuts
What do you think about when you think about squirrels?  Ravaged bird feeders?  Acrobatic acts?  Rabies?  The park?  Nuts?  Well, yes, nuts.  That also comes to mind when I think about the December holidays.

vincent-van-zalinge-438227-unsplash nut
Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not just the type of nuts we eat — like roasted chestnuts, walnuts on that sumptuous apple pie, or honey coated peanuts in the snack dish, but nuts as in gathering frantically like a squirrel, and nuts as in foolishly excessive holiday behaviors.   It’s a bountiful season for sure, but will it fill us up or leave us feeling exhausted, robbed and empty?

Filling Up More than Stockings
Each of us can choose to step back and celebrate in simpler, more meaningful ways.  You can create a holiday celebration of choice and one that enriches, rather than depletes, you or loved ones — physically, emotionally, and financially.  Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you.

  • Is it that important to try and create the perfect Christmas of yesterday, or a happier one now?  If so, dig deeper and ask yourself why.
  • Will taking on additional activities amidst an already crammed schedule affect your ability to give others your undivided, in-the-moment attention…or leave you feeling distracted, tired and resentful?
  • Is it worth it to over-spend, searching for an ideal gift when expectations and disappointments often cancel out efforts of holiday goodwill?
  • Are your actions obligatory or from the heart?  Compulsory sentiments and gifts noticeably lack holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver.
  • Will you honor your self-care with adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise, asking for help, and being financially responsible?  Or will you set yourself up to sour your holiday mood?

Do your actions make sense?  Do they seem a little nuts to you?  Be honest.

Enlist Creativity
If you own a bird feeder, you’ve witnessed a squirrel’s analytical creativity accessing it — including those supposedly “squirrel proof” feeders.  Be as innovative.

anthony-intraversato-445591-unsplash
Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

If others are involved, ask each person to select the one thing about the holidays that makes their heart sing.  Avoid the inner critic’s beleaguering to add just one more thing then another because you’ll be right back to the overload you tried to lighten.  Determine what is absolutely necessary then sew those pieces together to broaden smiling faces around a more joyful holiday.   You may be pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not a holiday of lack but one of overflowing abundance from the spirit within.


Apply Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s sentiment to the holidays… “Once you identify your deepest intention, you have a chance to be true to yourself, to celebrate the kind of holiday you’d like to have, and to be the kind of person you’d like to be.”


Trudging through Tradition
Several years ago I happily exchanged some traditional activities for what means most to me.  Quieter gatherings, tuning in to nature and the gifts she generously offers day in and out, gladden my spirit.  (This is not to say I don’t host or attend holiday parties.  But I keep them manageable, not falling prey to Madison Avenue’s message that I must decorate my house with a thousand lights, bake cookies, and overextend my bank account purchasing lavish gifts.)

A friend, looking frazzled and slumped in her chair, told me yesterday how overwhelmed she felt filling out 300 Christmas cards!  Three hundred cards?  Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed?  But, was it really necessary?  It’s important to connect with others and tell them how much they mean to us but if it adds a layer of stress it doesn’t make sense to me — it’s nuts.

remi-skatulski-101224-unsplash-stressed red squirrel
Photo by remi-skatulski on Unsplash

All in a Nutshell
Make the holidays what you want them to be and create cherished memories.  Don’t worry or fret.  Otherwise you may become like the red squirrel whose coat turned grey from stress.   🙂

arthur-rachbauer-747873-unsplash
Photo by Arthur Rachbauer on Unsplash

Paradox of Winter

December often conjures up complaints about the cold, snow shoveling, and dangers of falling on ice, but just as often I am awestruck by winter’s beauty contrasted against a backdrop of barren starkness. And so is life. One is necessary for the other.

So, rather than more of the usual holiday hype for this month, I’m focusing instead on Mother Nature’s vivid gifts.  What comes to your mind this season…?