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Planting a Secret Message

As I planted my new impatiens this week, I wondered about their name. Impatiens. It sounds a lot like impatience, which I figured couldn’t be right, because these are bountiful, beautiful blooms that patiently survive my sporadic gardening.

It turns out that I was wrong. That’s exactly what the name means: impatient. It seems that the seed pods “discharge forcibly at a slight touch,” an explosive trait I’ve never noticed before. They obviously do this quietly and on the sly. I plan to do the slight-touch test when pods form this season.

Flowers have long been used as symbols and presented as messages. In Victorian times, people were especially interested in giving flowers significant meanings. Victorians often conveyed their feelings by sending flowers, which must have felt a bit sneaky, like sending a secret, coded message. Pink carnations proclaimed, “I will never forget you.” Red carnations announced, “My heart breaks.” Striped carnations meant, “I cannot be with you.”

And impatiens meant impatient. But here’s the interesting thing: Impatiens also came to symbolize motherly love. I guess that makes sense. Impatience and motherly love often go together. I’ve certainly felt both simultaneously. But now that I’m a grandmother, I’ve found patience much more accessible. Maybe that’s because I’m aware that my time in the world grows shorter with every passing day, so my priorities become clearer. When I look at my grandchildren, I think, “I have all the time in the world for you.” What, I wonder, is the flower for grandmotherly love?

Last summer I visited Norway, where the family of one of my daughters-in-law lives. The windows at the back of their house gives a perfect view of the sea. Each morning while sipping my coffee, I watched slow-moving ships make their way up or down the coast. The ships eased past, looking as if they were in no hurry to reach their destination. They’d get there when they got there. Patience.

So I’ve decided to rename my impatiens. I’m calling them “patiens” instead. I have a planter full. If I were to hold them all as a bouquet, I’d have my arms full. They’re my bright, quiet reminder to stay in a calm, peaceful place. To have patiens.

“The strongest of all warriors are these two –

time and patience.”

– Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

 

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Text and photos © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

 

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To See the Ordinary

 

“[I]t takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary.”

David Bailey, photographer –

This past weekend, Art and Soul, the artists’ studio where I take classes, held an art market. All the artists who were offering art for sale, including me, met on Friday evening to hang our work. During this set-up time, each of us periodically took a break and strolled around the space, expressing delight and amazement at the displays of our fellow artists’ work. It was like being in a museum. Each piece was unique, brought into existence by an artist’s hands and eyes and heart.

The pianist Glenn Gould once said, “The purpose of art is the lifelong construction of a state of wonder.” In my experience, that’s absolutely true. A state of wonder. That’s the way art affects me. Art (visual arts, song, dance, theater, photography), whether it’s unusual or wildly creative or thought-provoking or calming, calls me to pay attention.

Later, as people walked through the art market, I noticed that while many people seemed as full of wonder as I was, not everyone was drawn to the art that drew me in. In fact, some hardly paid attention at all. They wandered in and wandered out. I realized that the state of wonder is not really in the art but in me. I’ve chosen to pay attention. So I can choose to see the wonder in the art. Or not. In the same way, I can choose to carry that state of wonder with me into every day. I can learn to see – really see – the ordinary.

Or not. Our usual paths can become so familiar that we don’t even notice them anymore. We can wander through life with our minds traveling back to yesterday or forward to tomorrow or down into a screen . . . and never pay attention to the patterns of petals on flowers and veins on leaves and seeds on grasses and anthills and vapor trails and puddles and roly-poly bugs and cracks in sidewalks and reflections . . . and on and on and on. It can take one glance to be drawn to something extraordinary like a piece of art. But as David Bailey said, “it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary.”

So here’s wishing you the eyes to see the ordinary and a heart to sense the wonder.

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes

but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

 

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Text and photos © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

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When the Light is Right

 

“I have captured the light and arrested its flight.”

– French photographer Louis Daguerre

A honeysuckle hedge runs the length of the fence on one side of my house. In winter months, it’s a wooden sculpture of interlaced branches. Last week, it leafed out and bloomed seemingly overnight. Now the birdhouse on my back deck is perched in a tumble of honeysuckle. One morning, I grabbed my camera and focused on the birdhouse, but there was a shadow on the hedge that I wanted to edge out, so I lowered the birdhouse in the frame of the photo and snapped the picture.

Later, reading in the sunroom in my favorite rocking chair, I glanced up and noticed that the shadow was gone. The shot I originally wanted was available. But I was now focused on an article I was reading. Just a few more lines, I thought, and then I’ll get the picture. When I finished the article, I picked up my camera, but a curved shadow had fallen across the entire face of the birdhouse. Again, the light was not right.

Because I take pictures of shadows, I’ve learned the lesson about the light over and over again. If I like a particular shadow, I have to get the picture right at that moment or the light will shift and change everything. I’m obviously an amateur photographer, but I’m learning a most important lesson: the light has to be right.

Professional photographers insist on the right lighting and know how to get it. They come to photo shoots with large lamps and screens to soften or deflect light. My older son used to light sets for film and video shoots, and he would spend hours getting the light just right.

In nature, some things show up only in the right light. Rainbows. Reflections in water. Sparkles on stone. The light has to be right.

Life often feels like a process of trying to get the light right. Some days we’re navigating through fog. Not only is the light not right, it’s not there. Sometimes we’re making our way forward, but the shadows keep shifting. At other times, it feels as if the sun is fully out, clearly revealing the path.

I’ve been reading the artist Shaun McNiff’s book Trust the Process. “The creative spirit will always have its good days and bad ones,” he says. “This inconsistency is an essence of the process, which moves according to its inherent chemistry and not my expectations. . . I am asked, ‘What is the essential quality that carries us through difficult times?’ In my experience it has been acceptance tied to a faith that the weather will change. Through it all I have to keep ‘showing up.'”

Life is a process, and you are the work of art. If the sun is not out today, it may be tomorrow. Or the next day. Keep showing up. The beauty in you is illuminated when the light is right. And the truth is, when the light comes from within you, the light is always right.

“My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –

It gives a lovely light.”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Text, birdhouse, and shadow photos © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Rainbow and candle photos courtesy pexels.com.

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Sixteen Secrets of Keeping Quiet

 

“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.”

Pablo Neruda

This week, my one-year-old grandson said a couple of new words: “puh” (up) and “tep” (step). I keep encouraging him to say, “Mimi,” which is my grandmotherly name, but he’s said it only once, and once seems to be enough for him at the moment. He talks in full sentences, but for the most part, his words are his own language.

I enjoy language and words. I guess that’s no surprise. Sometimes when I’m reading or writing, a random word stands out from the rest, and my mind begins turning it over and around and inside out. Occasionally it’s an unusual word, but most often it’s a word I use all the time.

That happened recently when I read the title of a Pablo Neruda poem, “Keeping Quiet.” It’s a common phrase. I’ve used it myself, but I had never thought of how interesting it is to use the word keep that way. What does it mean to keep quiet? Ever since, I’ve been noticing different ways we use keep. “Keep a secret,” “keep at it,” “keep track of it,” “keep up with it,” “keep on keeping on,” and “playing for keeps” (which, I discovered, came from the game of marbles). I also knew, from writing fantasy novels, that a keep is the strong tower in the center of a medieval castle. A dungeon, too, was often called a keep.

Enter the dictionary. Keep can be traced back to Old English cepen, which means “to observe,” and cepen possibly entered English from the Old Norse kopa, which means “to stare.” That struck me as strange, because that definition didn’t seem to fit keep – until I thought of a keeper, a person who guards or watches and is responsible for taking care of something. So:

Keeping the traditions means observing them, protecting them.

Keeping a secret means we watch over it. We are responsible for it.

Keeping the peace means we don’t get complacent but stay alert to what brings peace and hold onto it.

Keeping someone company means we pay attention to them.

Keep your word means attend to what you promise and holding yourself to it.

Keep off the grass means observe it and take care not to trample it.

Synonyms for keep are maintain, stay with, persist, sustain, remain in, preserve, embrace, support, tend, guard, defend, comply with, respect, celebrate, support, nurture, nourish.

Now here’s the fun part (for me). With those synonyms in mind, return to the words that started all this pondering in the first place: “keeping quiet.” What does keep quiet mean? Well, we just found sixteen secrets of keeping quiet:

Maintain quiet. Stay with it. Persist in it. Sustain it. Remain in it.

Preserve quiet. Embrace it. Support it. Tend it. Guard it. Defend it.

Respect quiet. Celebrate it. Support it. Nurture it. Nourish it.

At this link you can listen to Sylvia Boorstein read Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet.”

“Now you keep quiet, and I will go.”

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy pexels.com.

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How Do You Eat Sunshine?

That sounds like a riddle – how do you eat sunshine? In a way, I guess it is. How do you eat sunshine? How do you drink clouds? How do you taste spring?

Those thoughts came to me during a choir rehearsal at church. We’re preparing for a Celtic service, and one of our songs, a Celtic prayer, begins, “Be gentle when you touch bread.”

“Be gentle when you touch bread,

let it not lie uncared for,

taken for granted or unwanted.

There is such beauty in bread,

beauty of sun and soil,

beauty of patient toil . . .

Winds and rain,

Winds and rain . . .

There is such beauty in bread.”

a Celtic prayer

When I first heard this prayer, I was struck with a sense of wonder. When we eat bread, we’re eating sunshine and wind and rain! Our most basic nourishment is filled with the elements of nature. Such beauty! I’m planning to serve a fruit salad with dinner tonight. I’ll be eating sunshine. What a joyful thought!

Okay, I know some of you are thinking, “Right, we also eat the dirt and the manure mixed in with it.” Yeah, I went there, too. It’s especially top-of-mind with the recall of romaine lettuce this week. One theory is that the lettuce was tainted by animals wandering through the lettuce fields – or birds flying over, doing an air-drop. That’s not such a beautiful thought.

But then there’s that other way to look at it. If it’s choosing between seeing the glass half full or half empty, I choose half full. I choose to experience the wonder of eating sunshine, drinking wind and cloud, tasting the goodness of rain and snowmelt, and being deeply grateful for it all.

So this week, taste a little sunshine! Bon appétit!

P.S. You can enjoy The Celtic Collection by Margaret Rizza at this link.

 

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy pexels.com.

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How to Fill a Space with the Beauty of Peace

 

“Filling a space in a beautiful way.

That’s what art means to me.”

Georgia O’Keeffe

When the artist Georgia O’Keeffe wrote about “filling a space,” was she referring to the space of a canvas? Or to her studio where she painted? Or to a gallery where art was displayed? I don’t know. Maybe all three. But the simplicity and grace of O’Keeffe’s definition of art connects with me. Maybe because I’ve wandered through galleries, worked with fellow-artists in a studio setting, and filled blank spaces of canvas and paper with whatever beauty I can summon from my own soul.

I was struck this week with a realization: In the midst of all our world’s crazy and horrible and dangerous and questionable events – and the responses to those events – the earth just keeps blooming and fading and offering itself, usually in the background quietly and steadily, sometimes as the main attraction, thundering, blustering, flaming, and flooding. No matter what we humans do, no matter how oblivious we are, nature finds a way to keep budding in cracks and crevices, to keep nesting in rafters or ruins, to keep shining and shading year after year. To keep filling space in a beautiful way.

I think it’s possible for us to join that calm beauty, not just surviving but thriving. I think it’s possible for each of us to be a space full of beauty, full of calmness, full of peace. I think it’s possible to carry that calm within us wherever we go, so that every physical space we step into is filled with beauty and peace simply because of our presence. Each of us is a piece of art. Each of us can be the beauty of peace amid the chaos.

But disturbing news keeps raining down on us so hard and fast, it’s hard to keep our heads above the floodwater. How do we fill ourselves with the beauty of peace so that we can become peace for the world?

First, we need to realize a wise and gracious truth that Frederick Buechner expressed perfectly in his novel Godric: “. . . all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.” All the ugliness that ever was, all the unkindness, all the destruction fade to insignificance next to beauty and kindness and creation.

Second, we need a way to center our souls on peace when we get jolted out of joint by the chaos around us. In my last post, I mentioned seeing worry as a helium balloon that we can let go of, letting it sail away. Here I offer you another practice to try: HALF it. When one of my grandsons was struggling with anger, I guided him through this process. It can be done anywhere. HALF is an acronym for Hands, Abdomen, Lungs, Face. When you find yourself tense from worry or anger or stress, focus for a second on your hands. They’re often curled in fists. How about your abdomen? Is it tight or jittery? How about your lungs? Your breathing is probably shallow. And your face? Jaws clenched? Scowling? Eyes narrowed? Take that tension and HALF it.

Hands, relax. Shake them if you need to.

Abdomen, relax. Soften your belly.

Lungs, relax. Breath deeply through your nose. Blow out slowly through your mouth.

Face, relax. Unclench your teeth and jaw. Raise your eyebrows. Blink and refocus.

Still tense? HALF it again. And again. And again if necessary. Because what we need is the calmness to think logically and wisely about whatever is causing the tension, worry, anger, and stress. What we need is to fill the space of our inner self with the beauty of peace so that we can carry that beauty wherever we go.

As I was thinking about HALFing tension and inviting peace, I thought of the line “If you can keep your head,” which is from Rudyard Kipling‘s famous poem “If –.” Kipling was familiar with a chaotic world. Although he wrote these words in 1910, they feel timely today. Here it is:

If –

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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Text and photos of Karyn Henley art and dandelion © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

All other photos courtesy pexels.com.

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The Path to Serenity

 

“Do your work, then step back.

It’s the only path to serenity.”

– Lao-Tzu –

Have you ever been peacefully reading or watching TV or even sleeping when a thin buzzing sound zooms in on you? You swat, and silence returns for a few seconds. The next minute, it’s back, pesky, persistent, and irritating. (An African proverb says, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you obviously never spend the night with a mosquito.”)

Worry is like a mosquito, darting in with an insistent, irritating buzz. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to swat at a mosquito interrupting my sleep. I’ve also woken up in the middle of the night to swat at a swarm of worries. That’s why, when I read Lao-Tzu’s advice about serenity, I took note. If you follow me on my other, briefer blog, Carry the Calm, you know that I’m serious about finding and maintaining peace and calm. So how do we find calm?

“Do your work,” Lao-Tzu counsels. Yours. Not someone else’s. Do what’s yours to do in your career and at home, in public and private, in response to issues you care deeply about, in relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.

“Do your work, then step back.” When I speak about child development, I often tell parents that raising children is like flying a kite. You hold the string and the kite as you run along the ground, testing the wind. As the air begins to lift the kite, you let go of it, still holding the string and keeping it short at first. Gradually, as the kite gains height, you let the string play out, and the kite goes higher and farther. That’s where the analogy to parenting ends, though. In parenting, we cut the string and let the kite sail away on its own. We do our work and then step back.

It’s the same with any of our work. In writing I have to decide, at some point, that I’ve revised to the best of my abilities, and I have to step back and let the book go out into the world. I’ve controlled what’s mine to control, but I can’t control how the book is received. I have to let it go. When I paint, I have to drop my expectations of creating some perfect masterpiece. I have to do my work and then step back and call my painting finished. I’ve done what I could. I can’t control how someone else sees it.

“Do your work, then step back. It’s the only path to serenity.” Serenity comes from a Latin word that means clear, cloudless, or untroubled. One definition of serenity is “utter calm.” I think of floating, totally giving my weight to water, air, my mattress, whatever is holding me up. Serenity rests on trust. Trust allows us to step back, away from the buzzing swarm of worries and rest, for “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” as Julian of Norwich said.

Recently a friend and I shared a moment of frustration, amazed at how we wave away our worries, intending to be rid of them, but they come creeping – or buzzing or zinging or whining – right back when we least want to deal with them. As my friend detailed one of her worries, I saw it as a balloon. “That’s not your balloon,” I told her. “Let it go.”

I’ve since pictured each of us holding a bunch of helium balloons so that they’re level with our face, like a bouquet. But only a few of those balloons are rightfully ours to hold. The rest are not ours to deal with. Still, we’re inclined to fill our hands with more and more balloons that belong to someone else, situations we can’t control or cure. The more balloons we hold, the more they block our view. If we let go of the balloons that aren’t ours and let them float away, then we’re left with the few that do belong to us, and we can easily shift them out of the way or peer around them, under them, over them . . . we can see.

So check the balloons you’re holding. Let go of the ones that aren’t yours – maybe they were once yours, but you don’t need to hold onto them any longer. You’ve done your work. Now step back and let those balloons go. If they ever drift back to you, grab the strings for a second, but then toss them up and let them go again. “It’s the only path to serenity.”

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Kite photo courtesy morguefile. Other photos courtesy pexels.com.

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The Brilliant Egg

“A hen’s egg is, quite simply, a work of art,

a masterpiece of design and construction

with, it has to be said, brilliant packaging.”

Delia Smith, How to Cook

I took my eleven-year-old grandson out to dinner a few weeks ago, and as we considered the mouth-watering dishes on the menu (Mexican), our talk turned to favorite foods (Mexican or otherwise). I said I had lots of favorites, but there’s one thing I could eat every day of the week: eggs. My grandson wisely pointed out that if I had eggs every day, they might end up not being my favorite, because I’d get tired of them.

Well, maybe. But there are a lot of ways to cook eggs. I don’t think I’ve found one variation that I didn’t like. Now, I’m talking specifically chicken eggs. I’ve also had quail eggs (yum) and fish eggs (iffy) and cream-filled Cadbury chocolate eggs (double yum). But my staple is plain old hen’s eggs.

This is the time of year for Passover and Easter, so articles are popping up about food (which usually include at least one recipe for eggs) and traditions (which include the Easter egg hunt). At both Passover and Easter, eggs symbolize rebirth and continuing life.

I just read an online article about the history of Easter eggs in Christianity. No one knows for sure how the Easter egg became a tradition. I’ve always heard that Christians co-opted Easter eggs from pagan traditions honoring fertility and spring, and the article mentioned that. But it also offered another possibility. It seems that when the Easter holy day was first being established, Christians were not allowed, during Lent, to eat meat or any product that came from animals, including eggs. Chickens, of course, do not stop laying eggs for Lent, so for the forty days of Lent leading up to Easter, people hard-boiled the eggs to store them. Then when Lent was over – at Easter – they had all these hard-boiled eggs. Easter eggs.

True? Who knows? Sounds plausible. If it’s true, I’m glad I didn’t live back then, because I would have had a hard time giving up eggs for Lent. Meat? Fine. Give it up. Eggs? Not so easy.

I recently ordered a cookbook entitled Egg Shop just so I could get a few more recipes for eggs. Along the way to the recipes, I learned some egg trivia.

• Sunlight tells a hen’s body it’s time to lay eggs, so the longer the daylight, the more the hen is likely to lay an egg.

• Hens want to have a whole pile of eggs – a clutch. So when eggs are taken from a nest, it makes her want to lay more.

• The breed of the chicken and the type of diet determine the color of the eggshell.

If you grew up with some experience on a farm, chances are you knew that trivia already – only it wasn’t trivial on the farm, was it?

So . . . eggs for dinner tonight? Omelet, eggs benedict, huevos rancheros, eggs a la goldenrod, fried eggs, scrambled . . . “a work of art, a masterpiece.” Yes, quite simply, brilliant.

I leave you this piece of advice from Nick Korbee’s Egg Shop: The Cookbook. He applies it to cooking eggs. But it applies just as well to life:

“You must know how to begin, and what you desire in the end.”

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy pexels.com.

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A Toddler’s Secret Wisdom

 

“One way and another, reading takes up so large a share of my existence that I have to praise it. It is what I know best, and the riches it brings me are always under my eye, undeniable.”

Francis Spufford

It amazes me, when I think about it, that we’re able to take lines and dots and squiggles and put them together to communicate. It’s just as amazing that we can read them and hear a writer’s voice, catch a meaning, and connect with the author’s mind.

Maybe I’m hyper-aware of the process of reading right now because I’ve been taking care of my sixteen-month-old grandson, who can’t yet read. He loves books, though, and often chooses one from the shelf, brings it to me, and then turns around and backs up to me, trusting that I’ll pick him up, plop him on my lap, and read to him. Which, of course, I will. Here are quotes from some favorites:

“Help! Help! Who can help? We can! We can!” One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root

“I curl up in my hollow tree and dream about spring.” I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom

 

“Duck slid down and started running in circles . . . ‘What should we do now?’ he hollered. ‘We should remain calm!’ Goose yelled back.” Duck and Goose, by Tad Hills

 

“The dance is done, but we’ll be back.” Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton

Inspiration just for a toddler? Look again:

Remain calm.

Help out.

Dream about spring.

We’ll dance again someday.

Not bad sentiments for grown-ups to take to heart.

Reading really is a magical activity, decoding and finding entry into other worlds, other times, and other thoughts that we might never have considered without the nudge of someone else’s words. When we read, we can time travel – backward, forward, out to distant galaxies and in to our own deep psyches. It’s also a fantastic way to hit the pause button of a busy mind, especially if you have a toddler in your lap.

“…literature makes a very classy drug.”

Francis Spufford

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy pexels.com.

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Reflections: Thoughts and Images Bending Back

This morning, the late winter sky and trees formed a reflection in my coffee. It was the second reflection that I consciously noticed this week. It was much smaller than the other reflection, which was framed by an entire landscape. I was at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens at the entrance to the Japanese Garden path, which skirts one side of a pond. As I looked across the pond toward the mansion, the calm water was reflecting a field of brilliant daffodils and the mansion beyond.

The view reminded me that one of the fascinating facts about Cheekwood mansion is the way that every view from the house was made to either see or hear water in the form of a pond or stream or fountain or reflecting pool. Last fall I took a group tour of the mansion, and as we stood on a side porch under a wisteria arbor, we could look down on a rectangular pool flanked by stone benches and statues of muses. Our guide called it the reflecting pool.

“Because it reflects the hills and trees and sky?” I asked, enjoying the landscape and skyscape mirrored in the water.

“Because it’s meant to be a place to sit and reflect,” said our guide.

Ah. I hadn’t thought of that. But I realized that both meanings were true. The pool obviously reflected its surroundings, but it was also peaceful and quiet, a perfect place for reflection of a different kind.

So I’ve been reflecting on reflection. I had never connected the two definitions before, but they both relate to their Latin origin, reflectere. Flectere means “to bend.” (Think flex. Or flexible.) Reflectere means “to bend back.” Energy – in the form of light, heat, sound, and even radio waves – bends back after hitting a surface. It returns in what we experience as a reflection.

Reflect also means “to think quietly and calmly.” When our minds reflect, we keep our thoughts to ourselves, thinking them and then letting them bounce back to us so we can think them again, maybe refining them as we do. Or we join them to other thoughts and let those reflect as well. Here in the South, we often call it pondering, which comes from Latin pondus, meaning weight (as in pound). Ponder means “to weigh in the mind.” We reflect in order to weigh our choices. We reflect in order to figure out what we believe. We weigh our thoughts.

Reflecting and pondering are essential to the process of creativity. A joke among writers is that we spend a lot of time sitting around staring into space and get to call it work. Most of the time, it actually is work. Film producer Samuel Goldwyn said, “If I look confused, it’s because I’m thinking.”

Shakespeare must have done a lot of reflecting in order to create his plays and sonnets. In one of his sonnets, he tells us what else he reflected on:

“[T]o the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past.”

Sonnet 30 – 

 

Reflecting can also be a type of prayer. Dramatist G.E. Lessing wrote, “One single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer.”

Reflecting to create.

Reflecting to remember.

Reflecting to weigh our choices.

Reflecting to figure out what we believe.

Reflecting to pray.

Five reasons to reflect.

And then there’s a sixth, which circles back to literal reflections, like the sky and wooded hills reflected in the ponds and pools at Cheekwood. We can reflect to enjoy nature. Reflecting is a way to wonder and enjoy the beauty of the world. Noticing and admiring reflections – in a window, a coffee cup, or a pond – enriches the spirit.

“The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.” – Dogen Kigen

 

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Text and photos © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

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