When Crows Sing

I love crows. There is something different and genuine about those birds, unpretentious almost. I love their song, a sound that many people dislike, calling it a screech. Some might view crows as pesky, noisy, and not very graceful, in comparison to other birds. I enjoy watching them and it seems that we have many around this area. The area is classified as a bird sanctuary which I didn’t know when I moved here. It is a happy coincidence because the area where I used to live before was also classified as such. I saw many different types of birds which I enjoyed immensely. One of my favorite paintings is Krahe, from a German artist named Rudi Hurzlmeir. It depicts a crow wearing boots and walking through a plowed field. I don’t own a copy of this painting yet but one day  I will order one online because every time I look at a picture of it I smile, and that is a good thing.

A crow’s song also makes me smile. I guess if we look for it we can find beauty everywhere. The adage – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – says it well. In challenging times, it is very difficult to find beauty, but sometimes, finding one thing that is beautiful amongst all the ugliness that might surround us in trying times is the only way to get through. In dark times, a tiny ray of sunlight filtering in might be the only thing to focus on, the only beautiful thing to get us through. Darkness can only give way to light. When the crow sings, it might offer one beautiful note.

The View From Where I Stand

This morning I was writing at my desk, located on the second floor of the old farmhouse where I live, and I happened to look outside the window; I needed to rest my eyes. I love the view of trees from that standpoint; it feels as if I am inside a tree house. If you are familiar with the layout of the very old farmhouses (over 108 years) the upstairs almost has that barn feeling, the very low ceiling and the continuous bedrooms separated by one entry way. When heading upstairs I immediately land on the first bedroom, no landing or hallway. I love that feature, although impractical. The view from where I stand offers me peace and serenity, and for that I’m grateful.

There was a time when the view wasn’t as serene, and I mean it metaphorically. It was a challenging time, the most challenging so far, and I knew it could break me or make me. The days felt longer than they were, but as with any trying time, the view started changing and things got better and better; it is the nature of the test. Although I might have not liked the view (of the situation) from where I stood, I knew that God had my hand, and it was all temporary. Looking back, I understand many things I did not see before, and I can understand the view at the time as well.

Many times, life puts in front of us a view that is not what we hope for nor what we want at the time, but believe me, there is always a reason. Even when we want to close our eyes, the best thing we can do is keep them wide open and observe the situation/the process. The more we see, the more we confront, the better it is, and the process moves along as it should. It is part of going through the many “views of life.” It is all temporary.

Whispering Trees

When I moved to the old farmhouse I had already come up with a name for it; I called it Mill Creek Little Trees. The name came to me after thinking of all the little pine trees that grew freely on the property when I first saw it – abandoned, dilapidated, and covered in wild vines and overgrown trees and bushes. In just a few years, and by the time we moved in, they had grown very large and beautiful. I am glad we let them be. Not long ago I was walking outside, and a gentle breeze made its way through the trees. It caught my attention because it seemed as if the trees were whispering, as if nature was having a soft conversation. I felt at peace. It occurred to me that a better name would have been Whispering Pines. I have loved pine trees since I was a child, any type of pine tree. It is synonym of joy, at least for me.

I am convinced that nature’s purpose is to provide peace, joy, solace, and inspiration when humans need it most. It is balance to our lives, and we naturally gravitate to it. Even in the busiest cities, people find a way to commune with nature, whether it is by visiting a park, placing a few potted plants on a window sill, or enjoying the company of a pet. Nature is a stabilizer to our human chaos. It gives us life, literally. We are part of nature but we tend to feel separate from it, as observers. I’ve asked myself if that is just human perception because when I observe animals they seem to flow with the rest of nature, and at peace with it. Our species must harness, conquer, possess, and subdue, and for some reason, it doesn’t feel as a natural flow as with other species; it seems forceful in some way.

The theme of human redemption appears on my novels and I am considering a novel with a stronger approach to the duality of our human nature. Not so much about good vs evil but more about the ambivalence of our fragile/strong soul. I am not a hundred percent sure yet but it seems more likely the more I think about it. For now it is just an idea, a whispering thought.

On Purpose

Finding purpose seems to be a human purpose in itself. The quest that many times keeps us awake at night. What is my purpose in life? I used to ask myself that for so many years, and the answer seemed to elude me always. I engaged in many endeavors; pretty much, what I fancied at the time, I did. It was just a matter of doing it. I failed many times; I enjoyed many others, and so the tiny bits of happiness those endeavors brought. It seemed to me that once I was satisfied and “done” with something, I was on to something else. There was a sense of missing purpose in the back of my mind. Still is, but only at times. It presents itself as a question – am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? I remember telling someone who had been a teacher all her life, that I could not picture myself doing one thing for all my life. She told me, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” Very wise woman.

It wasn’t until I read this biblical verse that things became more clear for me. I had read the same verse many times, and yet I never saw the connection until one day, when I was feeling a bit lost in my current at the time endeavor.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mathew 5:16)

What could be a bigger purpose than that? It doesn’t matter what I am doing at a particular time, as long as it serves that purpose. It is even bigger than I thought purpose could be for me. It is even intimidating, as filling those shoes is a quest in itself for such an imperfect me. When I read it, I understood that everything I do must cast a light that glorifies my creator. Wow, I thought; this is too big to even comprehend, and yet so simple and straight forward. It changed the way in which I view purpose now.

If you are searching for purpose, wherever you are in life, think about this verse. It will give meaning to it. Purpose won’t feel so far away or eluding you. I have written this verse on a card and placed it where I sit in the morning everyday, just so I don’t forget, because I tend to be an imperfect human who might forget her blessings at times. Someone who thinks that letting her light shine before men is challenging enough.

Elements of Transition

Transition – An instance or process of changing from one form, state, subject, or place to another. (American Heritage Dictionary

Life is full of periods of transition. From our conception until we die, we go through several stages during the evolution of our lives. We transition in decades, work, relationships, beliefs, likes and dislikes, appearance, and so on. It is so because we are alive. For some, there are transitional moments that present extreme challenges, and many times they come in the form of tragedy or sad news. These are defining moments. For some people, harder than for others. In any case, the outcome is defined during that process. I’ve been through many transitional moments, some easier than others, good and bad, and truthfully for the later, there were many times when I felt I didn’t know the answer, and as if I had run out of options, faithless, hopeless. I can look back at those transitional moments and see how many times the simple answer eluded me.

Pondering about these things, I was able to identify some elements or factors that might influence the duration and ease of the transition process. For the purpose of this post I will write referring to challenging and hard transitional times.

Time – Many times we feel that the catalyst to a transitional period could have not come at a worst time in our lives. We might think, why now? It is not fair. The nature of change is neither fair nor unfair; it just is. Our perception of timing is what labels it such; however, throughout the years, I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong time for change. God’s timing is perfect, even when we don’t understand it. Even when it may seem that our past actions/decisions might have caused or served as a catalyst for change. Time is human perception.

Money – Who on earth wouldn’t want a bit more of it? Unless you have taken a vow of poverty, money seems to be essential and necessary to live our lives, even if we have minimal expenses or few material desires. Money, whether in the shape of currency or any other form, seems to be necessary to propel forward. Many times, we feel that the lack of money prevents us from living our life and dreams. Although it is true that things flow easier when there is an abundance of money (at least in the perception of the material realm), lack of money should not define us. Money is a resource (as any other material instrument) to achieve something. However, during transition, we may feel that lack of money slows things down or even halts the process (hence the invention of credit). During this challenging period, it doesn’t occur to us that it is part of the transition, another piece to the puzzle, and not outside of it. Sometimes, in our most desperate moments money seems to have fallen from heaven at the right time.

Health/energy level – This concerns physical health as well as spiritual and mental health. When we feel good we have the disposition on taking on the world, but when we are not feeling 100% well, our perception of the situation changes. We feel that a situation is more difficult when we are not feeling well, are sick, or feel lost. The transition, whatever type, becomes insurmountable. Sometimes, we also experience a rush of energy to get us through, and it is only after we have gone through and looked back, that we can say, “I don’t know where from or how I got the strength to do _________ (fill the blank).

Past and new interests – Sometimes during transition, we undergo a self assessment that usually happens at the same time confusion/chaos sets in our minds. We start to discover that we have outgrown certain things, we have acquired other likes and dislikes, and other interests as well. The new you starts to emerge as part of the transition process. We have a glimpse of past and present, and even of what the future could be like. When we become clear of the things we don’t want anymore, but have been a constant in our lives, a series of emotions and feelings show up, making transition more or less difficult to deal with, however, necessary. The range of emotions/feelings seem to make things more complicated momentarily until we sort things out, discard what isn’t working, and decide, in order to move forward. There is no right or wrong length of time as it is part of the natural process of transition.

Failures/history/life experiences – Our past, our previous experiences, the labels we carry with us, our baggage, our personal history, seem to show up very loud during transition. Although it seems to make things more complicated or chaotic, it always comes with bits and pieces of insight and enlightenment, which seem to be necessary to propel us forward. Even when we seem to have lost faith when our history shows up, there is a switch that presents itself as a choice – to listen or not. It is when we choose to listen that we move forward. When we shut our eyes at the images that represent our history or close our ears to the sounds of it we are preventing our own evolution.

State of mind/attitude – We cannot be in a constant state of happiness or positivity; it is not natural. However, one can choose how to react to the challenge that is presented. The mood, the thoughts, the will are up to oneself. Of all the above mentioned elements, I’ve found that state of mind is the second most important during transition because it will determine much of the others. Our perception during a challenging transitional period might be clouded, but our attitude and disposition determine how bright the light on the other side shines through.

Faith – The personal beliefs we carry with us will support us during this time of transition. Our spiritual beliefs are there to comfort and guide us during transition. Even when we think we have lost hope and faith, those beliefs will show up in different ways to light up the path, so we find comfort and secure our step. This one, to me, is the most important of all the above mentioned elements of transition, and the one that influences all the others. Even when attitude fails, faith is there to pick us up.

These elements of transition are the ones I have identified during my transitional moments. There is no particular order to these, whether one or more, or even all at once show up during a transitional period. As a writer, I believe that transitional moments in life enrich my writing and help me portray characters and story in a more substantial way.

 

 

Everything I Thought I Wanted

Dreams, goals, pursuits, wins and loses, it all starts with a want. As early as we can distinguish between us and the outside world. Our basic needs give way to more elaborated desires. Childhood, youth, and years beyond, all full of dreams and the pursuit of those.

When I was six years old, I saw what I thought was the most beautiful coin bank at our town’s store; it was on display at the main window. It was a ceramic yellow dog with two puppies attached by a golden chain. It was the kind that you couldn’t take the money out once inside because there was no hole at the bottom of it. I remember that instance as being one of my strongest desires, and I had to have it. I remember working on all kind of home chores, and saving every penny so I could buy that coin bank (ironic). Once I had enough money, I told my grandmother to take me to the store. During that time, I was worried that someone would buy it before I could get my hands on it. My grandmother took me to the store, and I became the proud owner of the most beautiful doggy bank I had ever seen. I remember the joy and the feeling of satisfaction that day, a feeling I learned to recognized later on in life. After I admired and played with it, my goal became to fill it with coins until I could not fit one more coin inside. Again, I saved every penny, and asked my two aunts for chores, so I could earn money faster. I remember charging five dollars to wash white sneakers on one occasion. During that time, one thought haunted me – how could I get the coins out without breaking my beloved doggy bank? I loved it as much as the first day I saw it at the store. I agonized over the thought of having to break it.

The dreaded day came when I could not fit one more coin in it. Even when trying to push a coin down the opening, half of it stuck out. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was full of hesitation, anxiety, doubt, and courage. I remember taking an old towel and placing the coin bank on top, on the floor. I grabbed my grandfather’s hammer and I froze for a few minutes, unsure of my next step. I looked at the two puppies; they appeared sad. How could I be so cruel? I knew I had to make a painful decision, and I did. The curiosity of finding out how much money was inside the coin bank was stronger than my love for it. I took the hammer and smashed it against the yellow mama dog. Coins and ceramic pieces spilled on the towel, and a five dollar bill. I looked at the money; I looked at the broken dog, and finally, I looked at the puppies, now tied to an empty golden chain. I remember the silence, the feelings of guilt, and regret. There was only one way to end it all. It seemed fair. I took the hammer and smashed the ceramic puppies. Somehow, I felt better.

The odd thing about all this is that I can vividly remember and relive the moment, but I cannot remember how much money there was in the coin bank or how I spent it later on. I have broken a few coin banks throughout the years, metaphorically speaking. Today, I remember this moment as a bittersweet one, and I smile. Almost a rite of passage. What I thought I wanted, wasn’t at all.

A New Season

Seasons change, and so do people. It is part of our human nature. We change views, places, appearance, and sometimes, beliefs. To be human is to be in constant change, and whether we realize it or not, we are in constant movement along with the universe. It is so simple, yet so profound.

I have changed throughout the years. I am not the same person I was as a child, or as a teenager, or as a young adult. A combination of factors in living produces a new me until the time of death, as far as earth time living goes.

Going through the many seasons of life is necessary, if not essential to our spiritual growth, and our humanity as well. Many times we are hard on ourselves, for many reasons; whether we miss a goal, fail at something or think we did, forgetting our many efforts at trying, and dismissing the trial and error time as of neither value nor purpose. Instead we label ourselves as failures, hopeless, or whatever label seems appropriate to our restless mind at the time. We forget the road traveled, and erase all our footprints, many times wandering in our minds and souls, and feeling a void, spiritually lost. “Not all who wander are lost,” said Tolkien, and that rings true today as at any time.

Many times, we feel that our guts, efforts, experience, resources, our timing, and everything around us is misaligned and does not suffice to attain whatever we felt was important then. The whole universe has conspired against us, we think; when in reality we have been part of that same universe that we label as outside ourselves. “All I have is me!”  we scream in anger, despair, and disappointment. “Me” as a sole proprietor of this body and mind, with disregard of the universal bond that unites all. Our human nature blinds us, and many times renders us paralyzed, fearful, broken. The same human nature that we count on to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. We grab positive thinking books, one after the other, in an attempt to fix what is “wrong with me” and light up the skies once more. We don’t realize that the darkness we feel and label as an outside-in source that is there to harm us, is our dismissal of the light we carry in us. It is dark; I forgot to turn the light on.

It is a new season, full of labels, but a new season indeed. It is always a new season.

Listening to Your Inner Voice

After my quasi tornado scare last evening, I remembered something that happened to me a few weeks ago. We’d had wind and tons of rain the day before, and I was due to go into town. As I drove, a thought popped in my mind – what if a tree falls and blocks your way home? It appeared out of nowhere, and I dismissed it as such. I took me about an hour to complete my errands, so I drove back home. When I was getting close to home, I saw a large tree across the road. It was too large, so there was no way I could move it out-of-the-way. There was a field to my right where they plant crops, and if I attempted driving through it in my small car, I was surely bound to get stuck. To my left, there were two  houses, people’s front yards mostly planted with large trees, one of which that tree came from. My dilemma was that I only knew two ways to get home, both ways now blocked by that tree. I have not been living here too long and had no idea if there was another way. In the end, I decided to cross through the front yards, weaving my car through trees until I came out ahead of the fallen tree. Later on that day, I learned that another large tree had fallen in front of that one, right where there was the only way to come out if crossing through these front yards, the rest was heavy woods. This is not the first time I have not listened to my inner voice, which has become louder these days. When I have listened, I have not regret it.

Your inner voice is very protective of you. It has many names – guardian angel, intuition, God or the Divine … . It seems to be in you, but outside as well, discernible from my own thoughts or gut feeling; however, I have learned throughout the years, that it is very easy to be dismissed by the mind/thoughts. It seems to be a loud silent/non-audible voice that will be firm, insistent, and sometimes, annoying. I have learned that the more insistent and annoying it becomes, the more serious the warning seems to be. I’ve had many instances in which I thank God that I listened to it. Despite that, I think that it is in my human nature to attempt dismissal, especially when I am focused on a task. When I look back at different instances where my inner voice was right and I was wrong, I thank God for it. Eventually, I will become a better listener. I hope you do as well.

 

Outlook

OutlookA place where something can be viewed. The view seen. A point of view or attitude. Prospect, expectation. – American Heritage Dictionary

As the new year starts, many people have looked back and reviewed the past year, their dreams and goals, where they are now in life, what was, what is, and what will be, and have set new goals, and embraced a new start; it is the tradition. Starting the year with a new outlook is not a bad idea. It renews hope, and refreshes the spirit. The end-of-year rituals prepare us for a new beginning, and new expectations. From our place or point of view, we take in the view – what was, is, will be – and we embrace a new attitude in the new year. So many things to do, to act on, to live, and to observe – 365 days of wonder, of outlook, of being, and of will be, of life.

To live each day like the only day. Many of us have heard this adage. It is beautiful, deep, insightful. However, I ask myself, “how would I live my only day?” To answer this requires outlook – consideration of where I am, what I see, attitude, and even expectation on this “only day.” If it takes an only day to live like that, why not a lifetime? Why not?

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

My best wishes to you for 2018.

The Great Revelation – A Square at a Time

Imagine that your life is a canvas or a screen, a picture made of pixels divided into tiny squares that come together to reveal the big picture – the wholeness of it. Sometimes, life feels as a series of squares, of compartments that are not related. We keep a home life, a work life, a church life, a secret life (in some cases), and so on. We disconnect ourselves from the big picture, and end up feeling anything else but whole. We lack continuity because we have compartmentalized our existence. In the process, we have separated ourselves from the source of it all, the divine force of our existence.

Sometimes, it takes a step back or a few steps back to change our perspective from a square by square or pixelated vision to a wholesome perspective. It takes many times, more than a few steps back, to realize the connection between all the squares, all the compartments of our life, and in the end, they disappear and all we see is continuity, neither beginning, nor end, but continuity. That is more than the big picture; it is the great revelation.