A morning routine I reinstated recently is to spend the first hour after waking in contemplation and meditation. I collect a thermos of coffee, a large floor pillow, my dog and spiritual booklets, and then take them with me to a second floor deck of our house. After reading the inspirational message for the day, I bask in the early morning sun to contemplate its meaning…to meditate.
This ritual is fast becoming my favorite time of day. In this seemingly intimate solitude, I am surrounded by a world bustling with activity and sound.
At any given moment can be heard the horn of a train in the distance…woodpeckers knocking on rooftops…the highway noise of morning commuters…skateboard wheels whizzing to school…a dog barking a few houses down the street…lawn mowers buzzing…or a car door closing before zooming off. There is little human conversation to be heard from my balcony perch, yet the neighborhood is definitely alive and busy. This is when the day comes to life. This is when I feel tremendous gratitude for living here, my neighborhood. Yet, I didn’t always feel this way.
There was a time when all I wanted to do was live somewhere else…move on. My life pattern had been to change residences every two to three years, sometimes more often than that. Life moved quickly and I sped along with it, sometimes unwillingly. Thus, as a result of such a transitory lifestyle, I never really took time to know the neighbors or appreciate my surroundings. Up until now.
As the sun lights my face and the birds introduce themselves in song, I acknowledge the growth of the trees, gardens and me. The roots are deep; the branches wide. Now I welcome the embrace of familiar surroundings enveloping me like a warm blanket. Now I feel peace and contentment. Now I’ve come to appreciate this community and its people.
Most of my neighbors have lived here for more than 15 years! We’ve gone from sending children to school together and to welcoming grandchildren into our backyards to play. We’re getting older, but no one’s in a hurry to move away. We’re not close friends; we are neighbors. We help each other shovel snow, call out a “hello” at the mailbox, yell across the fence to quiet a barking dog, look out for strangers, and wave or smile in passing cars.
It has taken years for me to appreciate how blessed I am to live here. And this feeling of connectedness, of being part of a community, extends beyond the end of the street. I carry the ‘hood with me when I drive across town, visit friends out-of-state, or travel to another country. I look for the threads that weave us together into one beautiful tapestry of humanity, brotherhood or sisterhood…the true ‘hood.
And while I like the variety of colors and patterns of a colorful life, thinking about how it would be to live somewhere else, to experience the excitement offered in a strange place, traveling to different lands, enjoying extraordinary scenery and cultural diversity, there’s nothing quite like returning to familiar and serene surroundings. There’s nothing like a sun-kissed morning on my balcony in quiet meditation. There’s nothing like coming home.