Dawn & Dusk: Danger & Delight

It’s not often I get out of bed before sunrise. However, today was one of those mornings. As I made my way to the grocery store to fetch a supply of coffee and juice, I was reminded of my drive home the previous evening, right around dusk. The reminder was about the two most “dangerous” times of day to drive, dawn and dusk, and I had managed to do both in less than 12 hours. The experience now had different meaning.

The lesson of danger had its roots in my early driving lessons with my dad. He would have me drive not far from where we lived…on the backcountry roads…two lanes of concrete weaving their way through the wooded areas like the many small streams that paralleled our course. Since my dad worked long days, we would either drive before he left for work or when he came home after the sun had nearly set. In either case, there was little danger of me running into another car. However, only a hint of the sky’s light was available for my “daytime” lessons.

The danger he warned me about came from the animals that lived in the woods and the potential of them crossing the road during their normal feeding times. Deer, raccoons, owls, foxes, snakes, rabbits or mice were likely to be moving about in the dim light. I was more than concerned about the damage such an encounter would do to my car. I learned to drive with extreme caution and developed an abnormally heightened awareness of my surroundings.

I still do visual scans of both sides of the road, searching for movement at the point where my headlights meet the dark shadows. I test my skill in owl_GrtHornedspotting camouflaged critters in the bushes or meadows, or look for the reflection of my headlight in an open eyelid, a shadow crouching in a ditch. Once in awhile a large bird, flying fast and low across the road in front of me in pursuit of fleeing prey, will actually cause me to flinch or duck in anticipation of a possible collision. (Yes, it makes me smile, too.) The knowledge gained from those early lessons and innumerable animal sightings since have only validated the importance of being especially attentive when driving at dawn or dusk.

As I now live in a somewhat urban setting, the sound of a haunting train whistle is more likely to be heard than an owl’s screech. Still, there are opportunities to travel backcountry roads and encounter wildlife. I drive more slowly than limits dictate. My attention is focused on an unexpected but welcome encounter with four-legged or winged creatures. I get lost in the moments of anticipation and time has no meaning. There is only an awareness of the interconnectedness of Life, of Nature, if one is willing to pay attention to it.

This awareness brought a new lesson to my mind during the recent dusk-lit drive. As the sun settled quickly behind the mountains in the west, the last sparks of light shot toward the darkening sky and clouds as if flares were set off to capture someone’s attention. I likened the shadowy road before me as Life, my current existence of expression and uncertainties in this world of form. The sun’s rising that morning symbolized my birth into this Life. The setting sun is the time of transition, when my soul will at last depart this world and move along to its next adventure. And what of those sparks of light? Those are the joy my soul will feel when it sees before it how much more Life there is yet to unfold and experience in the eternal Now.

Yes, I will keep my eyes on the road and surrounding landscape…to be aware of potential dangers, wonders, challenges and exhilaration on my journey. I am also blessed by and grateful for the light and darkness of each day…for all the shadows and creatures that cross my path or peek at me from the sidelines as I go by. Life is full and rich and filled with delightful, wonderful lessons. Thank you, God!

Celebrate Life NOW!

Halloween happens to be my favorite holiday. Sometimes it’s just easier to be your ‘true’ self from behind the safety of a mask…or so I’ve told myself in the past. Fortunately, I no longer need a costume or a mask to be my authentic self, to be happy, or to have a little fun. It’s a matter of being comfortable with who I AM….and having my happiness and joy come from the inside, not from other people or various situations.

This new ability to be happy as I AM rather than because of something around me has impacted my perspective of this special October event. I no longer feel the need to wait until one particular day to dress up, decorate rooms with odd décor, act weird, or give away treats to strangers. I can do that anytime. (Be alert – you never know what might happen around here.) No, I’m not losing my mind. It’s actually a great way to live in the moment and enjoy what I have now.

Many years ago I read a piece by Erma Bombeck entitled, “If I Had My Life to Live Over”  ( http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/11882.Erma_Bombeck ) that planted a seed for this change of attitude. I also watch those around me who are ahead in years and wisdom as they use up or easily discard one family treasure after another – giving away things to family members, friends or charity – in an intense effort to make use of their collections or to clear out the burden of accumulating too much of life’s stuff. Once I started doing the same, my attachment to possessions, houses, cars, jobs, etc. all changed, too. What I know to be true for me now is that, for something to be kept in my possession for any length of time, it must be regularly used or displayed, or else it is shared or gifted away

It takes time for some seeds to really take root. We often call that maturity or part of the growing (aging) process when we finally recognize such wisdoms. I don’t have to wait for “someday” to enjoy and appreciate the abundant blessings that are mine. It’s happening now! I don’t need to wait until the right moment (event or holiday) happens before doing something special. I create the right moment. It’s always the right time for joy and happiness…to look for the Good in Life. And if there’s a holiday to remind us to celebrate the Good, all the better!

A Full & Temporary Life

My husband just returned from several weeks of traveling overseas for business. It was sometimes a challenge to connect by computer video call or telephone due to the time differences. But we managed to succeed. The brief video calls we shared, so filled with laughter and love, will always be part of my memory. I discovered that, even during bouts of loneliness, I could function and even be happy in this temporary single life.

The thing is, you can’t catch up on the time apart. It’s in the past…spent…gone. What you CAN do is appreciate every moment in the NOW…the present and active experience in which you find yourself.

So I took the opportunity to visit my son and his family in another state – road trip – bringing with me my daughter and her children. The family gathering of siblings and grandchildren, dogs and air mattresses, preparing evening meals and impromptu fun activities with the kids, brought with the chaos a memory of my own childhood and a large family. I felt comfortable in the chaos and activity of multiple lives all buzzing around in one house. However, we all agreed and appreciated that this was only a temporary living arrangement; not one that we wanted to reinstate.

The day before my husband’s return home I had the pleasure of visiting with two of my dear and long-time friends, spending several hours with each of them in turn. One travels often for business; the other will soon be moving to another state. It wasn’t that we needed to catch up on each other’s lives or relive days gone by; it was more a time to go deeper into life’s meanings, challenges, and sharing solutions to problems that we’d discovered or found helpful. Spending time together like this is a temporary experience to be savored in the present moment.

All life is temporary. Each experience…idea…job…home…relationship…your body… season…a moment of connection…is either evolving into something deeper or transitioning, coming and going in cycles through a lifetime. Even our memories of the experiences are temporary and often uncertain. The other person may not get that same sentiment from the same physical experience. Yet, at the soul level, somewhere deep within each of us, we have connected in consciousness, in that moment.

My memory is important only to me; yours to you…yet we often want to hold on and relive it in our minds or try to recapture or re-enact the experience. It’s never the same, not really. Time has passed; it’s over. Living in the past robs us of real present-moment experiences or appreciating a significant and meaningful future.

This NOW, this temporary moment, this present experience is where our attention is needed. It’s all we have. It’s where we create the life we live. If we can pay attention, be mindful, of what is before us, we will live with such fullness that loneliness or separation will find no room in our heart or mind. Instead, we will be filled with the contentment of a lifetime of joyful experiences; each one fully appreciated, fully lived, and fully loved.