Veronica's Garden

Rachel Creager Ireland on writing, living, the Flint Hills, and the Post Rock Limestone Caryatids

Tag: weather

Beautiful Morning

Maybe it was because the heat had lifted, making way for a cool front and just enough water coming down to call it rain.

Maybe it was the quality of the light filtering through the clouds, so the hot colors settled down for a nap, while the cool greens and grays woke up vividly.

It was a kind of day when you step outside and say, “Oh, what a beautiful morning,” before you realize you’re living a show tune.

The girls have been biking to school this year, but I drove them today due to the rain. The doves in the street were so at peace, it was hard to rouse them out of the path of the car. “Car, doves!” I told them, and the girls behind me joined in, “Car! Car!” Then, “Caw, caw!” which would possibly alarm doves more effectively.

Humming a pretty tune, I waved at other parents coming back from the school in their vehicles. A white-haired man sat on his stoop watching the traffic. It was an ordinary moment, perfect and beautiful.

It occurred to me that maybe for old people, watching kids go to school in the morning isn’t just something they do when they don’t have anything else to do. Maybe it’s meaningful in itself to watch these rituals of coming together and parting, the hurrying and dawdling, the putting on and removing of outerwear as the seasons revolve, children growing day by day and year by year.

It used to be that when I came upon these moments of heightened awareness, I’d wish desperately and wistfully that they could last forever. Now I know that the secret is to be that present in every moment, to be in perfection and beauty, even through everything changing.

How do we get there? I suppose they say meditation and mindfulness practices can help, though it seems to me largely a function of grace, which is to say, the Divine bleeding through our consciousness, unasked, undeserved, unwarranted.

Or maybe it was simply that the heat had lifted.

The sunflowers are about as high as an elephant's eye.

The sunflowers are about as high as an elephant’s eye.

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First Vultures of Spring

How it feels before a storm.
The wind is vigorous, the air not bright,
but charged, fragrant with the absence
of impurity. Something is blowing in,
might be just rain and lightning and thunder,
sky exercising its massive power,
then again it could be something
else altogether, something that could
grab you by the solar plexus and shock you
into becoming a new kind of being.

On a day like this you might see
the first vultures of the year,
surfing the wind with their whole bodies.
Surely if they had teeth you’d see them grin,
feeling the air caress the skin between the feathers,
the lift under the wings.
I saw two, then three more,
today, March 18, 2012,
and my heart skipped a beat.
Namaste, I said out loud.
Welcome back, friends.

Marlo on Gratitude and Weather

Note from Veronica: Dear readers, allow me to introduce my friend Marlo, head midwife and leader of the Postrock Limestone Caryatids.

Summer is winding down, and the sweltering days have begun to falter to milder ones, with cool mornings, enough that we can welcome the sun. When I have no patients, I sometimes slip off to the garden, for an excuse to do something useful out in the fresh air.

That’s what I was doing today, picking tomato worms (which Veronica informs me are really hawk moth caterpillars, not worms at all) and feeding them to the chickens, who were also enjoying the lovely weather, clucking and strutting about the vegetables. Turkey vultures were circling lazily overhead, and monarchs were fluttering by. It couldn’t get any better than this, I thought, being among so much life on a beautiful morning, and I felt a deep gratitude emanating from my heart chakra. It occurred to me to give thanks for my blessings.

But I had to pause. The weather doesn’t exist for us, any more than the planet does. It just is, the way it is, with all its variations, the rain and wind and warm air chasing one another around the planet in constant interplay. So where, then, does one put one’s gratitude? Perhaps the gratitude is not so much for what the weather is, as for being a being who can enjoy it, a life form whose needs are perfectly matched to her niche. For being a creature of sensuality and self-awareness, present in the present moment. I am grateful for being simply who and what I am, for the privilege of experiencing joy.

It’s like when a birth goes smoothly and the baby and mother do well, and everyone says, “Our prayers have been answered.” Suppose, instead, there is a problem, the baby is injured or sick, or, worse, the mother or baby or both are lost. Is it right to say that our prayers haven’t been answered? How do we maintain faith in the face of tragedy?

Does religion give us a better way of looking at this question? I haven’t found it in Christianity. Buddhism might be more helpful, since it doesn’t offer us anyone to pray to. We’re not supposed to want any particular weather; we’re supposed to be present and aware, without judgment or attachment, through whatever we get.

Another answer came to me from a Mayan shaman, Martin Prechtel. I paraphrase from a book I read years ago, and the extent of my inaccuracy will be the degree to which I have made this concept my own. What he said was that the difficulties and discomforts of life are not bad things for us to suffer through on the way to the good; rather it is all one package, and it is the greatest privilege to experience it, every bit, all the joy and pain and love and suffering. It is all worthy of our gratitude.

Many people seem to think it their spiritual duty to remember at all times the abundant blessings they are given, in spite of difficulties and trials. I think it a higher calling yet to be joyful and grateful through everything we get, whether we are able to enjoy it or not. The greatest blessing is just to be here.

Vulture Girl Drives Through a Rainbow

(Note from Veronica: Here’s a quaint poem from Rachel, who lived back in the early twenty-first century, in the days of casual driving. I like to think we might have been friends, had we lived in the same time. I share with her a love of rainbows and vultures.)

Vulture Girl Drives Through a Rainbow

I’m driving to town, going to the bank to fix some problems,
looking for a place to sell some watches which I have
recently inherited. There were too many to keep, though
I am wearing on my wrist one very elegant, oversized (for me,
small of wrist, as it is said was also my ancestor who has unknowingly
bestowed upon me his collection of watches) timepiece which
uses the natural movement of my body as its power
source. Automatic seems too rote a word for this fine thing.
I’m appreciating perhaps for the first time the admiration
some carry for a watch. I open my heart to let go.
To hold tightly to a fine, precision time-measuring
device, oh, too cruel the irony. I imagine
that my barely-known ancestor, the one with the small wrists
like myself, a former doctor who saw lives end as well as begin,
was a man of enough wisdom to enjoy a nice watch simply.

There is a new force in me of late, or an absence of something
which was once there, a dissipation of attachment to the material
which formerly held me. Ever clumsy at transformation, I have been
assured that my ancestor would have approved of my
changing these fine things to pure medium of exchange.
It is fitting. I’ve long claimed the vulture as my totem,
feathery escort to the next place, teacher of the love of the end,
which marks the beginning. I’ve never loved life more than now,
this year closing to fall, but I intend to love it simply.
May I be eaten by vultures when I no longer inhabit my body.
There is no death.

I’m driving to town on a sunny mid-afternoon,
and I see a rainbow, which is uncharacteristic for this place,
a place where sun, rain, and horizon synchronize and synthesize rainbows
casually as a summer storm, but late in the day, as the rain
clears over before the sun sets. Today there has been no rain.
The rainbow growing brighter. Will I move through it?
Which I believe is impossible, or rather
that it is not how one usually sees rainbows. Anything
is possible. Anything is possible. The rainbow is always there,
always everywhere, a phenomenon of the sun and earth and
her atmosphere, of light and waves and air, of sphericality.
The eye being only one part of many, which happens to catch the
visibility, upon occasion, of an event which is always happening.

Driving and watching this rainbow, growing brighter, closer,
I see rain from the clouds behind it, rain
which hasn’t fallen on my home today, and, being in
the east, will not. This is uncharacteristic, as storms
move west to east. Driving into a storm which
quickly changes from tiny sprinkles to big plopping drops,
wipers wiping as fast as they go, the
rainbow no longer visible, or visible only behind.
A freak storm, manifesting on the other side of me
from where it never was.

Driving out of the rain, it’s only been a few miles and
it dissipates back to droplets, then the windshield is dry.
Then vultures, a hundred or more, gliding
high, high, neat rows as if in formation. They ride the heat
rising off the highway, or the currents in front of a storm.
They always leave earlier than other migrants,
well before the freeze: they need the warm air
to lift them to flight. Year after year I’ve missed
their autumn leaving, only noticed they were gone.
I’d sought fruitlessly to study the midwestern leg of their long,
long, migration to where the seasons turn upside down.
O blessed day, today I am selling off
the watches and seeing a rainbow and high up the
vultures, circling slowly to the south. O blessed blessed
creatures who see air, effortless gliders, dark eaters of that
which is left behind, my heart beating gratitude for your
luscious, lovely gift.

10/12/10

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