Last night I stuck a bag of trash on the porch. Living in the country and not placing garbage in a receptacle is like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes a varmint gets into it and other times they just pass it by. Unfortunately, last night something got into the trash and scattered it all over the driveway. It was the first thing I saw when letting the dog out this morning. I went inside, grabbed a new bag and began recollecting the trash. There’s nothing quite like picking up frost-covered garbage at dawn.
As I was gathering it and stuffing it into the bag I began to recall a Jewish wisdom tale;
A woman repeated a story (gossip) about a neighbor. Within a few days, everyone in the community knew the story. The person she talked about heard what had been said about her and she was very sad. Later, the woman who had spread the story learned that it was not true. She was very sorry and went to a wise rabbi and asked what she could do to repair the damage. After giving this some thought, the rabbi said to her, “Go home, get one of your feather pillows, and bring it back to me.” Surprised by the rabbi’s response, the woman followed his advice and went home to get a feather pillow and brought it to the rabbi. “Now,” said the rabbi, “open the pillow and pull out all the feathers.” Confused, the woman did what she was told to do. After a few minutes, the rabbi said, “Now, I want you to find every one of the feathers and put them back into the pillow.” “That’s impossible,” said the woman, almost in tears. “The window is open and the wind has scattered them all over the room and blown many feathers outside. I can’t possibly find them all.” “Yes,” said the rabbi. “And that is what happens when you gossip or tell a story about someone else. Once you talk about someone, the words fly from one person’s mouth to another, just like these feathers flew in the wind. Once you say them, you can never take them back.”
It was a great reminder that not only every word but every action has consequences that we cannot foresee. Our lives should be lived mindfully aware that our scattered thoughts, words, and actions will impact the world for evil or for good.
Yesterday afternoon, after a long day of errands and yard work, I sat down by a fire of yard and outdoor debris. As I exhaled exhaustion and inhaled rest a beautiful hawk alighted on a table about twenty feet away from me. It’s wingspan was impressive, his claws looked sharp, a regal face and gorgeous coloring. I was as still as possible wanting the moment and the hawk’s presence to last. The fire popped, the large bird quickly took flight and I was left with with the remnant of it’s memory.
Too often we want to hold onto the beauty and let go, ignore the ugliness, happenstance and choice bring our way on the path of life. We don’t want to pause and be still for only a moment but instead stay in pleasant places. However, the impermanence of existence makes this impossible.
Wisdom tells us that developing the discipline of receiving blessings and fortune, chaos and calamity, with open hands is crucial to contentment. Understanding the transience of every moment, good and bad, positive and negative, wanted and unwanted, is to accept the truth that nothing lasts forever and all things sooner or later fly away.
One of the key understandings of working with Incarcerated Fathers is that when you check in to the jail you are on the facility’s timetable.
I have an all day training today beginning mid-morning so I made an early appointment with the local correction’s unit last week. I arrived twenty minutes ahead of time, logged in and waited…for almost forty minutes. I studied my notes, took several deep breaths and tried my best to stay mindful and not let frustration get the best of me.
While I sat there I noticed a lighting bug that had somehow gotten inside. It was flying around, bumping into things, crawling on the floor. Finally it landed near the door that led outside. I put down the notebook I was holding, walked over, opened the door and gently nudged it out. At first it turned around and started to come back inside but I continued to guide it in the other direction and when I could; safely shut the door. The bug paused a moment, recovered its bearings and then flew away.
When I sat back down I thought about the dad I was there to see and the sessions we would work through over the coming months. I hoped he too would be nudged, guided, shown the way to freedom and once given a chance; he would spread new found wings and fly away.