Ephemeral Nature

The “radical ephemerality of the mind.” That’s a phrase from yesterday morning’s yoga class, which kicked off a spring day when the snow just fell and fell.

I happen to love snow, no matter when it falls on the calendar, no matter if it’s wet and sloppy or airy and feathery. Snow brings out the little kid in me. Not for me the grousing of most folks confronted with a late-season blizzard.

In fact, I notice that I want a storm to last longer, snow harder, more more more. Never mind if it means I need to shovel longer/harder/more. There’s still this internal clinging. I believe the Buddhists would call that attachment.

It’s just: I like the draping of snow over every twig and berry. I want that to stay. I want to fill my eyes with that clean beauty. It’s even more precious for being so fleeting. (A few years ago when we were in the deep freeze with that Arctic Vortex, I hated the extreme cold but loved the way it preserved the softness of snow.)

Today I woke up to a different kind of loveliness, with wind and sun conspiring to wipe the snow off every limb. I got out for my walk as soon as I could.

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Watching the ephemerality of  nature (and my mind), I noticed my tendency to focus on past and future moments instead of NOW. Like: This creek view reminded me how I walked on it when it was frozen solid a few months ago. That was another moment I wanted to last forever.

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I decided I would continually draw my attention to the here and now, instead of mentally wishing for something to last beyond its particular moment. “Be where your feet are,” is something I remember Anne Lamott saying, and in my Yak-traxed boots, I did my best.

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The same wind that chilled my face and kicked up snow like desert sand had carved gargoyle shapes on top of this bridge railing.

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Is this the last Yak-trak of the season? Would I step less reverently if I expected more?

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What I’d like to do is pay close attention in every moment regardless of its assigned significance. Barring that, I’d like to remember to remember to remember to come back to the present moment… as soon as I remember to!

Advice for Writing and Living

I’m home from the Midwest Writers Workshop, where the keynote speaker, mystery writer Hank Phillippi Ryan, shared “What I wish someone would have told me.”

By Kartikay Sahay via Flickr Creative Commons

By Kartikay Sahay via Flickr Creative Commons

The advice was writing-related, from how to deal with solitude (“You write alone, but you are not alone”) to the inevitability of self-doubt (“Before you burn your manuscript, make a copy.”) Still, I was struck by how much of her guidance also applies to those of us invested in the critical work of remaking the world.

First up: mention was made of the classic Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In which Anne’s brother, in grade school, waits to begin a report till the night before it is due. The topic? Birds of North America.

Not surprisingly, he comes nearly unglued in panic. Their father, a writer, counsels him, “Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Bird by bird.”

Then there’s this:

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Do that. Be brave.”

And finally, the need to be happy, to love what you are doing, and to enjoy the place where you find yourself. “This race goes to the stubborn and bullheaded, but it’s also wise to have a good time.”

I was planning to discourse on how these nuggets inform the life of a hopeful thrivalist, but my brain is pretty much a mashed potato right now. So how about this instead: