This photo has four of my favorite things: turquoise blue, pink, a tiger swallowtail, and the word joy. As a kid, there were few things I loved more than butterflies, and especially the large, beautiful swallowtails. They were magical to me, how they changed so mysteriously from an ugly and ungainly caterpillar into such colorful, graceful little beings; how they danced, flitting from one thing to the next; the joy they brought then, and still do today when I am lucky enough to spy one, how both my attention and my breath are held in such rapt wonder.
I think about those things that are closest to my heart, the ones that make my soul sing, if even for a brief moment, if only a tiny parting of the gray veil. I'm talking things, not people, the people being obvious and foremost of course. And I'm wondering as I write, what things light you up? What takes you from the normal realms into something quite spectacular, warms your heart, sings to you?
Other than butterflies, for me, it's dolphins, Moloka'i, Maui, the ocean anytime, anywhere, and in any whether, snorkeling, my friend Sharon's mountaintop, a beautiful and profound poem, the music of Lono, a perennial flower garden, taking pictures, Mt. Shasta, Happy Isles at Yosemite.
Speaking of, I still can't quite believe that in six weeks I will be back on Moloka'i. I have never known such sustained joy as I experienced my three months there, the last month in particular. Here on the mainland, real life has intruded once again, the doors of the excitement that animated me as I watched unexpected things fall into place and I made my plans drifting invisibly shut. Sleeplessness, fatigue, the things I long to do but can't quite get going on, the chronic low-grade depression all returning.
Thank goodness for the people and the things that we love. Because life can be hard. I look around at my friends and my family and I see that we all struggle. In our own ways. Like the butterfly must struggle to leave the cocoon. My teacher Isaac has been saying this for years, in a different way maybe, but I get it's the same thing. He says, just find something, one thing, that you can enjoy in this moment. I often resisted, because for some strange reason, I wanted desperately to hang on to whatever the problem was. And yet, except when I was in the darkest of holes, there has always been at least one thing. The vase of flowers sitting on the table next to him, the pink rose in particular; the small stained glass window in the old craftsman style building where we meet; my friend sitting on the floor next to me making jewelry. Right now, my cat Sassy Girl sleeping on my lap, the picture on the mantel of my daughters, the absolute silence, except for the soft hum of my computer.
Getting that it's all part of life; that we walk hand in hand with every bit of it, the good, the bad, the easy, the hard, is my constant learning. And knowing the lesson is also, inexplicably, to no longer favor one over the other; but also, paradoxically maybe, to take the idea of enjoyment - gratitude even (maybe they're really one and the same?) - more to heart. Not as preference, but as practice... not to resist what is, but to make room for more breadth of experience, more totality in each and every moment.
For the first time, I'm posting at Lisa Gordon's Creative Exchange, where the theme is, "Your camera in one hand, your heart in the other." (I love it!) Click the icon below to visit and see others beautiful photos from the heart.