Beings without Substance

The measure of a human is not in her wealth, or success, or any of those worldly attainments to which we so happily ascribe great value in the popular realm, but in her simplicity. So much can be accomplished by the reduction of focus on unimportant things, the removal of distractions, and reverence for the smaller and more ephemeral stuff. This, this is how we shine.Photo: How We Shine Best

Light in Dark Places

photoWhat possible purpose can Daylight Savings Time serve in this day and age except perhaps the most mercenary sort? I really dislike the artificial shifting of the daily schedule (time itself being quite independent of our constructs meant to explain and regulate it), with one small but significant exception. That little thing?

Knowledge of the power of the tiniest speck of light against the dark.

When the days become naturally short, night long, because of the turning of the earth on its axis and the change of the seasons, the sense of being trapped in almost-perpetual darkness inevitably begins to creep upon me; add to that the government-mandated spin of the clock to steal yet another hour of sunlight, and I begin to wither and feel a little like sorrow and solemnity, gravity and groaning will also steal my sense of belonging to the day at all. This spell of coldness and heartless eternal night could certainly drive a person mad.

And yet, the smallest spark renews my will and hope. One little star piercing the indigo sky becomes a beacon bright and powerful enough to pull me from the dark and back to day. That winter’s also the season when so many cultures, faiths and kinds of people find new reason to light more than a candle, more than a fire, and call upon the grandest graces of their inner best is no mistake or accident. The contrast with that terrible beauty that is felt and seen in lightless space is something far beyond the sun of day–against the coal mine dark, a pinpoint is all it takes to seem a seam has opened into warmth and goodness once again. And in my little heart, I do believe that any one of us determined enough can learn to be that tiny, so-essential fleck of

Stained Glass Windows


photo montageUnexpected Illumination
Whenever day’s grown dark and grim
And life, obscured behind a scrim,
Surprisingly, the welcome light
Through colored windows seems less dim–
Though blue and red may look less bright
By day, and screen the moon by night,
What rays come through and lumens pass
These panes set inner bleakness right–
No sorrow ends its storms, alas,
Merely because the beams amass,
But something blest descends on him
Whose heart is lit by colored glass.

Lighting Candles in the Vastness of the Dark

photoIt’s easy in this big, busy world to feel sometimes that one is alone in the magnitude of space, a tiny voice calling out and not knowing if there’s anyone who will answer. When times are grim, that is quite simply the pervasive sense. When my youngest nephew was very small and spending his first overnight at his grandparents’, my mother tiptoed down the darkened hall before turning in for sleep and heard his little voice coming out of the doorway with the plaintive little inquiry: “Is there anybody here who knows me?”

Like him, I have always eventually been answered in my timid forays into the fearful or unknown with rescuers coming to my aid, whether in a literal sense or in the sometimes equally powerful act of offering emotional and companionable solidarity. I’m here for you; I hear you. It doesn’t always have to be more than that, though I can’t imagine there are many who would find themselves able to be surfeited when it comes to genuine kindness and support; sometimes just knowing that there is somebody else somewhere in this overwhelming life who cares what happens to us is grace enough.

Entering the seemingly surreal world of the blogosphere is certainly sufficient intimidation and unfamiliarity for most of us, and a place where we well might feel we’re talking into empty nothingness. The discovery that there are not only fellow wanderers in the place, indeed, but kindred spirits–well, that is more than just a comfort. It’s a relief and a joy and the sighting of rescue breaking through the impenetrable dark with, however tiny, a candle flame. Amazing how that infinitesimal light pierces the gloom and begins to widen. How it begins to be passed from one to the other until a seeming infinity of tiny flames has suddenly coalesced into blazing daylight!

That is the kind of friendship that shifts from virtual to virtuous in a rather quick succession of conversations and shared thoughts and dreams, where we go swiftly from meeting-in-passing to knowing that it matters that each little flame be tended thoughtfully. True community, it turns out, can be cultivated in dimensions that know no boundaries of physical space. It grows in sharing commonalities and respecting and treasuring the uniqueness and differences of opinion and belief and history that give so much deeper meaning to what we do hold in common.

So I pay grateful tribute to those who have answered my voice in the darkness, who have shone light upon my blogging life and more importantly, shed light in every direction by the mere warmth and passion of their spirits through their own voices in blogging. There should be a much more beautiful and euphonious name for this dimension of community than Blog, Blogger, Blogged, Blogging–all of them sound, if not rude, then at the least terribly plebeian. But then, perhaps the true beauty of the construct is its very ability to carry our unvarnished, unembellished humanity if not on golden wings then on plainly mortal feet, all of us walking along, however trepidatiously, speaking softly to others we only trust are there, carrying our little candles ahead of us with quavering hope.

Lately I have been reminded of this sharing of light and warmth yet again by the gifts of three further Versatile Blogger Award recognitions by that Beautiful Spirit, Alpha, at Aspire.Motivate.Succeed., the warm and wonderful master of his well-tended garden, Bishop, at Bishop 9396’s Blog, and the Bardess, DM Denton, who shows magnificent visual and verbal ambidexterity. From three people who demonstrate great versatility indeed I take it as a high compliment.

And I have now been granted the Candle Lighter Award by dear ‘Nessa at Stronghold. She is a bright light indeed for such a young torch-bearer, bringing her insights and opening discussions on many a topic that could fall into the dark but for the repeated loving applications of the light of inquiry and passion that she offers in her forum. All are free to ponder there the complexities of life, love and the human psyche that cross all boundaries of age and experience. Precisely the kind of place that welcomes shared illumination just as I’ve been describing here.

Candle Lighter Award logoThe Candle Lighter Award has been variously described in terms of its requirements, so I thought I’d see if I could trace it back, and behold, this award’s creator actually maintains an open link so that we can bask in her generous and thoughtful gift. So raise your lamps high with me, won’t you, and we’ll thank her for this kind and inspiring offering. Thank you, then, both to Kate, the nurturing mother of this Award, at Believe Anyway, and to ‘Nessa, who believes strongly enough to shine her own light in the darkness.

Kate is especially generous and ingenious, I think, in opting to simply let the award she conceived stand on its own, requiring no response or action other than that one should, appropriately, shine light upon its meaning as a representation of positivity and hope and illumination in and of itself and the thoughtful sharing of it ought to recognize those whom the giver sees as showing those qualities in blog work. To further those beliefs and ideals, I will of course share the names of a small few bloggers who represent the vigor of meaningful optimism, teaching and leading and sharing the light through their munificent and loving work. And as ‘Nessa has reminded me, many of the brightest lights are those that persist to shine in the darkest

Thus I gladly pass the torch to my friends at PsycheVida, The Invisible Shadow, Aspire.Motivate.Succeed., The Human Picture, G (of G Caffe), and Year-Struck, who all know the light well, if partially by virtue of having known or passed through various dark places, and choose to shine their better selves abroad like rays of sunlight.

I have handed the Versatile Blogger Award along (as well as a few others with similar requirements) enough times that I fear I shall put your lights out, all of you, if I should share another laundry-list of factoids about my shining self, and know that you’ll find more than enough of my self-revelatory chatter just by wandering around my blog any day of the week. But I hope that you will also attend to the following fellow off-road-thinkers who certainly deserve a badge of Versatility for their wide-ranging skills and interests, again without requiring anything of them in return other than that they should rejoice in being in company that deeply appreciates the surprising and wonderful collection of wits that each of them represents.VBA logo

To Marie, tending home, garden, and a next-gen toddler in her Little Corner of Rhode Island; to Ellen, who writes and paints and draws and sets the cultural coordinates of her region at Nine Lives Studio; to Bella of winsomebella, a magical land where passionate soul-searching merges with poetry and photography, travel and storytelling; to John, cooking up history and food and familial love in the Bartolini Kitchens; and to Nia, who intertwines photography with food, the tails of cats with tales of travel, and wonderful daily expressions of local culture to charm and amaze us.

Some of you, I know, have been laureates of these specific and many other blogging awards, and deservedly so, so I neither demand of you that you accept (though it’s pretty much an impossibility to make me un-like you once I’ve decided I like you, as far as that goes!) nor that you ‘keep passing the dessert around the table’. Your blogs and excellence speak for themselves, and if you wish to share the joy further then I am delighted to have put it in your hands for the sharing. Because that is the whole beauty of this place we call the blogging community. There’s dessert and light and warmth enough here for