Often I will see something that strikes me, but I am in a hurry and rush past. Then I cannot stop thinking about what I have just seen, so I return. Even if I have only my cell phone, I snap some pictures, because I know that I am going to want to think about (and share) what's caught my attention. Walking under the scaffolding erected around a building this winter I noticed that some of the branches had been tucked underneath. I wondered how they would fare. And then I forgot about them. A week ago I happened to be on the same route. The trees, sturdy urban pears, as it happens, were resplendent, leafed out. But what was truly wonderful was that the branches trapped by the metal siding were equally boisterous. They were on their own time clock, a bit delayed in their development. But they were blooming.
At around the same time a friend sent me a lovely little book of days--meaning, a book that one is expected to read one page at a time, every day. I'm usually not good with such contours. I want to rush ahead through the month, look back to see what I missed over the year. But I decided to curb that enthusiastic impulse as best I could and instead focus on where I was (supposed to be.) I feel, at some intuitive level, that I'm in one of those life "wrinkles" (a karmic moment?) in which I am meant to be learning a very important lesson--but I'm not sure what it is. I'm really training myself to be open to leads--"what the universe hands you" as some put it.
The book is 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, by Deng Ming-Dao. Since college, I've been drawn to routing around in the literature and living of Tao, and as my younger son is studying the same, I'm humming alongside him. I try to keep open avenues of connection with family and with friends--those conversational highways often require maintenance, keeping up, finding on ramps, that sort of thing.
Theo, as a ten-year old, once complained about an adult he wasn't connecting with, and whom he felt didn't appreciate him: "We just don't have topic compatibility, Mom." I had never considered that concept but since then have found it enormously useful. Techies refer to "stickiness"-- or "connectivity". Velcro is a useful image, and so are burrs. (Can there be too much connection?) Some peoples' minds connect, affinities instantly spring up and there is no limit to talking, searching, examining, getting to know one another. With others, meh.
Anyway, a recent entry in 365 Tao is about "Acceptance", and in metaphorical spirit it seems to be about rain and drought. (Useful enough, that: the writer advises that we not plant a garden of water-demanding flowers during drought, as that is ignorant and egotistical.) But acceptance does not mean passivity or stagnation. "Those who follow Tao do not believe in being helpless," he writes. "They believe in acting within the framework of circumstance."
And perhaps that's why those flowering branches stopped me in my tracks. "I am Tao," they seem to say. "I am trapped under scaffolding, out of the light, away from rinsing showers. The wind cannot even shake my flowers loose. But what do I do? I bloom, anyway! The scaffolding is actually a marvelously-textured backdrop for my extravagant beauty--like the meticulously-raked grooves of sand in a Zen garden, against which prickly pine needles will look soft and feathery. My blossoms have nothing to do with my circumstances. They have to do with who I am. My beauty comes from deep within, from the essential core of my being, from my rootedness. I will make the most of this unfortunate circumstance. Because I cannot help myself. I must bloom."
Lately I seem to be hearing so many stories of people feeling trapped, stuck, unhappy in their lives, unable to take root. Does acceptance help? Does seeing how you are, in adversity, help you see who you are? So: Whether or not you have topic compatibility with someone you love: Bloom. Whether or not you feel noticed, attended to, in the sunshine of someone's attention: Bloom. Whether or not you asked to be pinned up against life's scaffolding: Bloom. Unfold in your own time, but bloom, because that is who you are, no matter what the circumstance.