What's It All About?

It's all too easy for days to pass without reflection. It's my hope that through a greater active awareness on each day, that I will be able to consider God's presence in my life and in the world around me. Writing has always been a way for me to round up my thoughts. This blog seems like a good place to park those thoughts for my own benefit as well as the benefit of others. Please take a moment to read what I have written, to offer comments, and to share the ideas with others.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Little Story For Thursday: Generosity in Aisle Number 5

Lake Alpine-Lakeside Trail-photo by Libby Fife
I'll start with a nice post from Parker Palmer, someone whose writing is really starting to resonate with me. The post can be found here and underscores my little story for today.

Yesterday, while I was in the grocery store after hiking, a woman came up to me in a sort of conspiratorial way. She asked me to step into another aisle so she could talk with me. I didn't much feel like being asked to buy something or to hear a spiel about something. I was wearing my shorts, was kind of dirty from hiking, and really just wanted to finish shopping and drive home. But I am not so wary in a scared-urban-leave-me-alone kind of way. Politeness is automatic. So I stepped into the aisle with her. She said that she had noticed my skin. OK. I have psoriasis and it is hard not to notice. She simply wanted to tell me about a medication that she had taken which cleared her own skin. She had had psoriasis also and felt so strongly about her life changing success that she frequently tells other sufferers about the medication. Once I figured out what she wanted, I experienced a sincere relief that she didn't want to sell me Amway or to recruit me for a religious cult! No problem! Talk away! I let her know that I knew about the medication but couldn't take it because of my history of being treated for cancer. (The medication she mentioned can cause lymphoma and so I can't take it with my medical history.) I sincerely thanked her, we finished up and I left.

As I was getting in my car I reflected on the fact that someone was trying to help me. She was very nervous about embarrassing me and didn't want to offend me. So, she was trying to be sensitive and thoughtful. What more could you want? Generosity of the human spirit is such a gift and surely a sign of God's presence in the world. I hope I was properly grateful.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Everyday Oak Galls Every Day

Oak gall-photo by Libby Fife

More oak galls-photo by Libby Fife

Acorns-photo by Libby Fife

Woodpecker hole-photo by Libby Fife
The idea for the name of this blog came to me while I was on my daily walk. I had been studying several different books about how to find spiritual meaning in your own existence and in the world at large. A consistent theme that runs through these types of texts is the significance of everyday events; how God is present even in the smallest of things. As I considered what I had been reading, the idea (and title) for the blog instantly came to me. Why not write about the small moments of grace that are experienced every day? As I thought about it, I got very excited about my plan and drove home right away to begin.

Right off the bat however, I got stuck. The actual spelling of the word "everyday" was an issue. Is it "every day" or "everyday"? And what did I mean with my title anyway? Did I want to write about things that are special that happen every day of the week or did I want to write about those moments of mundane happenings that are infused with a divine light that cause us to say, "aha!", God is present. After some thought I solved the matter by deciding to write about both things. And really, those concepts are intertwined; they are not mutually exclusive. This brings me to my next point regarding the photos above.

This morning I walked out into our yard to photograph the oak galls growing on our trees. I recently learned that oak galls are created by certain types of wasps burrowing into the different parts of the tree. They cause the oaks to grow these galls. The galls grow around the wasp larvae and protect it. When the wasp is ready to emerge they somehow make a hole in the gall and fly out. Other insects, birds and animals also use the galls for other purposes. There is quite a bit of interdependence going on here. The gall and wasp exist together. There is not one without the other. The acorns shown above have a similar purpose. They provide food for many birds and other animals but they also help the oak to reproduce. Sounds very basic I know but this for me is an example of both the "every day" and the "everyday".  And it's exactly what I had in mind when I started this blog. Surely there must be a force and purpose behind the everyday things that we are privileged to witness every day. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This Way to the Trail!

Lake Alpine Lakeshore Trail
Obvious signs are always helpful. Knowing where you stand and where you are headed can save time. Being able to identify what you see or hear can be beneficial. It may even save your life! But what if you don't know something right away? Can't put your finger on it or the  problem at hand seems much too large? It can be frustrating. Being frustrated can lead to giving up. I learned this week to take a different approach. It's an approach to understanding that doesn't involve an all-or-nothing scenario. It includes both knowing and not knowing and as it turns out, this approach works just fine!

The above shot was taken earlier this week on my hike. At one point, shortly after going up the hill shown above (the path being well marked!), I had to cross over a smallish creek. As I stood on the newly built foot bridge I took a minute to look around. I saw a creek and trees and rocks. That was it I thought. Then I started to consider things. There must be so many things going on that aren't obvious to me because I don't know about them; haven't been educated about the life around me.  Animals and insects and plant life must all be engaged in some kind of activity that I can't see. To further confound things I began to think about how everything had gotten there. Where did the animals come from? How long had the trees and bushes and grasses been there? What or who was there before me? I was so pleased to have this new bridge to use. Who had installed it and when did it happen? Did those people know that people like me would be grateful that it had been installed? I had a lot of questions in the space of just a few moments!

As I continued on up the hill and back onto the path I marveled at what I didn't know. What I couldn't see or begin to understand.  I knew a little bit about the life around me but not nearly enough. To what could I attribute everything that I saw as well as the things that I didn't see? Not knowing made me feel in an emotional way that I was in the presence of something much greater than what I could see. A force beyond anything that I could conceive. Call it whatever you want but for me, it's a sign of God's presence. It was a reminder to me to be grateful for the obvious and the not so obvious. And a reminder that it is OK to both know and not know. Stand in awe and be amazed!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Getting Connected

On The Trail-Lake Alpine-Photo by Libby Fife
There are lots of things that I like about walking in public spaces, particularly those spots that are in a natural setting such as a park or recreation area. One of the best things about walking on a trail, apart from the walking and the scenery, is when people stop to talk with you. I love that they are taking the time to say hello and to make some conversation. Think about it for a minute. Saying hello to someone is a bit of a risk. The other person may not respond or may respond sort of coldly. So, I always appreciate the effort. And I do it myself. I try to say hello to everyone that I see. If the person seems receptive I make some small comment. If not, I just sort of keep going and try again with the next person. I also like just encountering people while out walking. To me, it's as if all of us like minded people are there doing the same things: exercising, feeling healthy, communing with nature and perhaps, like me, trying to experience the presence of the divine. And that is probably what I like the most. I feel like we are all there trying to get in touch with something, divine or otherwise. It makes me feel like I am part of something larger than myself, even if only for a few moments.

Friday, August 7, 2015

My Buddy The Wind...

backyard view-photo by Libby Fife
As I look out the window this morning I can see the clouds moving along the skyline and the trees swaying in the wind. The wind is both a blessing and a curse this time of year. It certainly helps to cool things down but it is an added layer of disaster for people fighting fires. 

As I was taking my walk earlier this week I started to really listen to the wind. It sort of kept me company as I continued to make my way up the trail. Maybe it is too much reading of John Muir's adventures again, but I felt like the wind was an actual entity sort of talking with me as I walked along. I wondered if it was a divine voice spurring me on, suggesting that I look around and notice things and to remember to be aware of God's continual presence. A pleasant and comforting idea I think.

Hope everyone has had a good week. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Patterns, Awareness and Simple Gifts

Clouds over backyard hillside-photo by Libby Fife
Nature's glorious patterns. 

Maybe it's too much reading of John Muir lately but I was sure struck by the show in the sky this morning. Who needs additional adornment?

This week I published my monthly art newsletter. In it, I advocated for the simple act of observation with your six senses. The simple act of trying to notice anything in your surroundings with just one of your senses can really awaken you to what's happening. It creates an awareness. 

So, notice those clouds in the sky? Yesterday, as I sat in my studio, I realized that all of a sudden I could smell the wet cement outside. Since it is summer and dry and hot, it seemed crazy to smell any kind of moisture. Sure enough though, I looked out the window and our rocks in the driveway were indeed wet. What an unexpected gift. And I mean not only a little moisture but also the fact that I took note of things. That seems like extra icing on the cake.