Mother Nature’s beauty often leaves me speechless. When you see some of the fascinating images by landscape photographer Greg Large you may feel the same way too. View Greg’s work via The Vigorous Beauty Of Trees in the Edge of Humanity Magazine. They are too beautiful to not pass along for your viewing pleasure too.
The color red symbolizes steadfast faith. Some Christians believe it represents Christ’s blood. But the cardinal inspiration I’m talking about isn’t from the Catholic church — it’s from those eye-catching red birds that perk up winter’s indeterminate grey, like a spark of hope in darkness.
When faced with challenges like enduring the winter cold, the cardinal bird chooses to sing a lovely song. It stays strong and positive, exhibiting persistence and grace.
I am increasingly convinced that Mother Nature guides us by offering her own Divine space to us as a spiritual well. We simply need to open our eyes to see, accept, and contemplate her generosity.
Such is the case with the red cardinal.
Some believe the cardinal encourages us to “find our life song,” to create new ways to love our life and show our gratitude for it.”
Others say the cardinal warns us to be mindful of our thoughts and what we are creating. Are we continually replaying past hurts, thereby deepening the groove of misery (and setting the stage for more to come), or are we choosing to be at peace in the present moment? It may be helpful to visualize that red stop sign when these negative thoughts occur.
Many cultures believe cardinals are messengers from someone who has passed.
Five years ago on the morning of New Year’s Eve, my dear friend Mary died from breast cancer. A lover of nature and all animals, Mary encircled her home in the woods with numerous bird feeders. On the day of her memorial a red cardinal held vigil at the window to the room where Mary passed in her home. We believed it was telling us that Mary’s spirit lives on.
Others have had similar experiences. How ’bout you? Do you have your own story of a symbolic message a cardinal carried into your life?
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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…?
Seeing these rounded hay bales in expansive green fields began to stir something deep within a few years ago that felt strangely comforting.
I hadn’t observed this prior to practicing Qigong where I first felt a gentle, circular energy flowing between my hands. The movements soon enriched my gardening activities and evolved my thinking about continued life which led me to the Tao and a spiraled understanding of nature and our connectivity to the universe.
Yin-yang‘s circular energy symbolizes life’s continuum and oneness; that nothing is 100% black or white, right or wrong; we need one to have the other. Hours accelerate around the clock transforming day to night through the calendar of winter to spring, summer to autumn, season to season, year to year, era after era, wrinkled newborn to withered senior. This energy of oneness incorporates ourselves, others and the universe.
It is said that with Qigong (or Tai Chi) practice, you begin to view all of life as part of this circle. I have and am grateful for it. I see the circular trees, the ever lasting round sun and moon, the flowers that know to return year after year, the rounded hay bales at harvest. I use to fear death as a finality of life. But Qigong, gardening, and being in nature have taught me otherwise. This freedom from despair over my eventual death or that of loved ones is healing. Perhaps that is why the hay bales are like Mother Nature’s hugs, offering a soothing kinship with nature and all that is around me.
There’s no familiar summer, winter, spring or fall anymore
except for dates on a calendar.
Can we explain it away,
simply say the weather is as diverse as people, places, life —
that to live, to be alive, is to change?
Reduce.Recycle. Reuse they say.
But the seasons?
I am a child of four seasons
picking springtime bouquets
chasing summer fireflies
rolling in leaves
and sledding til numb.
As I matured, adult responsibilities pushed childhood activities to the recesses of my mind. But, I never dreamed the four seasons of my youth would become a distant memory, something to read about in history books of a time that once was.
As a child, leaves fell in September.
A few years ago they began in August.
This year, my yard was covered in July.
Thunderstorms previously endured in June and humidity that marked August are now daily occurrences commandeering the summer I use to know. Look forward to. Love.
The seasons have faded like leaves…
Is it a natural progression of time
the human disregard for the natural order of things
or Mother Nature’s retribution?
Spring and Autumn have silently been waving good-bye
but we were too busy, too greedy, too self-centered to notice.
Every now and then my passion for gardening and appreciating nature is punctuated by technology’s increasing thirst to control our lives. To me, these cold and calculating ways are the antithesis to nature’s infinite beauty and serenity. That is why this topic pops up on my blog now and then (no pun intended).
I bumped into an old friend recently who said her eldest child is retired (at age 35). After making and investing his millions as a technological entrepreneur, he and his wife now live in an Airstream, traveling cross-country to hike and explore nature’s magnificence. “He meditates quite a bit,” she added.
This gave me hope that those so addicted to devices will realize the hours they’ve wasted not living real life, or freedoms they’ve willingly discarded by allowing technology to think for them.
My concerns about the ethical crises in technology were confirmed by best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris who explained how people, corporations and governments are using technology to hack human beings. (Harris previously studied the ethics of human persuasion at Google.)
In their When Tech Knows You Better than You Know Yourself interview, these philosophers raised the question: “Whose best interests should technology be serving — individuals or corporations? Should apps be as successful (and profitable) as possible which equates to addiction, loneliness, alienation, social comparison…”
“There’s a reason why solitary confinement is the worst punishment we give human beings. And we have technology that’s basically maximizing isolation because it needs to maximize the time we stay on the screen,”Harris said.
Think about that. Really let it sink in. So many have imprisoned themselves with technology. Remember, a prior post on my friend whose brother is addicted to gaming and barely leaves his room anymore?
Instead, I discuss the Tao and hand drum with friends, attend Tai Chi classes, concerts, live theatre and art exhibits. At home I’m nurturing flower and veggie gardens while playing with my beloved border collie or practicing Qigong. Experimenting in the kitchen and reading a great library book enhance my time. Yes, I love those page turners (literally and otherwise)!
I was thrilled to find Blogtasticfood.com where Nick’s mission is to “post super awesome recipes and get peoples butts in the kitchen.” I love it. Real cooking feels (and tastes) wholesome and nourishing to me. I’d much prefer devoting my time to creating a delicious meal than being consumed by social media, texting or the internet (while eating packaged preservative-laden processed foods). Tactile, personal connections mean more to me than an addictive device.
Frankly, I don’t want Amazon to know right before my light bulbs burn out (so they can sell me more). And I don’t want them to deliver groceries to my door so that I can isolate, and not get any fresh air, exercise, or interaction with my external environment. “Don’t use it, you lose it,” still rings true.
However, as much as it sounds like I detest technology, I don’t. It’s the addictive aspects and loss of privacy and relationships that concern me. I agree with Harari that, “The system in itself can do amazing things for us. We just need to turn it around, that it serves our interests, whatever that is and not the interests of the corporation or the government.” In that regard I can understand Amazon delivering food to an immobile person who lives alone.
To reduce the risks of your personality being hacked, Harari suggests first getting to know yourself better and exploring your choices more deeply. Of course, someone who meditates two hours a day and doesn’t use a smartphone is less likely to be hacked than someone addicted to their device he says. Then join an organization of activists for a more powerful voice in making society more resilient and less able to be hacked.
Harari and Harris emphasize, “They’re (corporation or government) about to get to you—This is the critical moment…So run away, run a little faster.And there are many ways you can run faster, meaning getting to know yourself a bit better. Meditation is one way. And there are hundreds of techniques of meditation, different ways work with different people.
Photo by Dave Clubb on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Scargill on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Scargill on Unsplash
Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash
Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash
“You can go to therapy, you can use art, you can use sports, whatever. Whatever works for you. But it’s now becoming much more important than ever before. Protect yourself by getting to know your self.” This sounds perfectly natural to me.