Humid, sunny, no breeze, no water, no hat. A horse-fly repeatedly dive-bombs, then burrows into my hair with an angry buzz. Waving walking poles at it, I whack myself in the head. Good Lord. Did I mention 7 ticks on my person? S-E-V-E-N.
Trudging up the final crest, a litany of complaints was in rehearsal, performance scheduled for an audience of one (my husband). With gaze fixed glumly on the ground, I happen upon a pair of tiger swallowtails. Returned to the present moment by astonishing and surprising beauty, I stop in my tracks.
And you know what comes next. This stopping of whatever you are doing Mr. Alexander termed ‘Inhibition’. Having stopped usual habits (i.e.–trudging, mental rehearsals, downward pull compressing my spine, etc.), I then have the opportunity for something else. Usually something much better.
Please note: optimal conditions are not required for choosing optimal Use. In other words, you can, in the most unpleasant of circumstances, stop and receive whatever is right in front of you. This provides greater ease and comfort in the physical body, and a lightness of mind as well.
That performance of complaints? Never happened. The swallowtails stole the show.
In 1988, my father died suddenly of a heart attack, and having lost my mother 10 years earlier, I was officially orphaned. Often I found myself in a one-sided conversation with my parents, and once in a while, imagined hearing back from them.
One of those times a ditty began to sing itself in my mind’s ear, and although the melody has been lost, I do remember the lyric: Make a little beauty each day….It’s all that’s asked, all that’s required, just make a little beauty each day.
Yes. Making beauty. A roast chicken, a song, an Alexander Technique lesson, a pleasing arrangement of pottery and pictures on the mantle, a linen napkin under the sterling silver at dinner. A kind word, a lavish party. A photograph. A friendship. A marriage. A life you can love. It’s enough.
In this spring season, when the natural world is wild with making, may you be inspired to make a little beauty too. It’s all that’s required——
Stand in the middle of a hill meadow on a late April morning. Clutch in your left hand a bag of feathers. With the right hand, hold high one of those feathers and wait.
The swallows will begin to notice you. Heads will jut out from a few birdhouses and others will swoop around you with their liquid chittering. Release the feather. Watch as a swallow dives and angles and deftly maneuvers to catch the feather in its beak. When this happens mere inches from your head, listen to the snap of its bill. Say, ‘You are welcome,’ as the swallow flies directly to its box, disappearing inside.
Repeat.Many times. Those nests will be veritable featherbeds and your heart will be full.
Postscript: This is the second April assisting the swallows in feathering their nests. At last year’s nesting season close, a swallow saw me standing on the back porch and flitted into his box, emerging with a single feather. With it he flew straight to me, releasing the feather before my startled face. I kid you not. Befriend a bird today and prepare for wonder.
1.the state of being inactive. —Syn. Dawdling, pottering, shilly-shallying
2.disinclination to activity. —Syn. slowness, indolence, slothfulness
Webster’s New World Thesaurus was fairly upbeat with its ‘idleness’ entry until ‘indolence’ and ‘slothfulness’ made an appearance. Here we enter into the realm of judgment and the expectation that incessant activity and productiveness is a preferred mode of being.
Easter Sunday was a rare day of, yes, I’ll claim it, indolence. The positive spin would be ‘rest.’ The massive and very dead ash tree along the Rt. 296 lane had finally been removed and Mike was tired. Our social life found us happily out late the night before, celebrating the season with long-time friends. The plan had been to hop in the car the next day and get ourselves to the hill, but after sitting on the back porch in perfect bliss with our morning coffees, we concluded a trip to the farm was altogether too much doing.
Or as my godson Lyle used to ask, when I picked him up from preschool and proceeded to run errands, ‘Diana, could we please stop going?’ Yes, Lyle, we could. What a fine question. We do not have to keep going. Stopping is a very good idea. Essential, really.
We live in a world with very few pauses, and I write this week to encourage the finding of spaces, moments, hours, even a day, to quit with going and doing. This Easter Monday finds me refreshed* following a rare day of do-less-ness. Wishing for you the same—-
*Thanks to Beth C. for her delightful uses of the word ‘refreshed.’
With new walking poles in hand,I traipse through the pine woods on an enchanted April morning. Meandering over the animal trails, I eventually pause in a small forest opening, catching a glimpse of a thrush hiding in low branches, waiting me out.
How often do we get to be face-to-face with a bird? That’s what happened next. He studied me carefully, decided I was no threat, and continued his routine, hopping along the pine needle carpet, his beady black eyes intent.
Let’s redefine what it might mean to stand still. When I’m teaching choristers, they are encouraged to observe the support of their feet. From there, they can let the body move ever so slightly in a figure-eight pattern. These micro-movements prevent fatigue and fainting, both a hazard for choral singers who often stand in place for long periods of time.
Standing still in this lively way brought so much more of the world to my notice. On leaving the forest opening by the same path, I now saw spring beauties, the bleached jawbone of a woods creature, a wooly-worm, and heard a deer snort nearby. None of these wonders were in my field of attention on arrival.
Whether bird watching, singing, or waiting in line at the grocery, remind yourself that standing still can bring the world to you, and does not require freezing in place. May a few moments of lively stillness be yours today—-