Playland

Digital illo from a photo: PlaylandIs there a place that’s truly Playland for you? Where, if you need respite from reality for a while, you can be and let go of all your worries, can stop having to be the designated Grownup, can be rested and at peace—even for just a little while? A place that, if you only think of it with great concentration and meditate on its virtues, you can almost feel yourself there and come away from it renewed?

I have a few of these tucked away in my head, some of them real and some entirely made up from the candy-floss and butterfly eyelashes of my imagination. There are times when it’s almost too much to bear that I can’t be there in the physical world, so dreary or tragic-seeming that I can hardly even allow myself to think of my Playland wishes lest they, too, be tainted by the grim reality around me, but when I finally unclench myself enough to believe it’s okay to retreat to that safe and kindly haven, I find relief and renewal there. When I have resisted too long and at last revisit its splendors, there is always such sweet goodness in the moment of solace found in its fond welcome that I ask myself what you, too, should perhaps ask yourself, if you dare:

Why don’t I visit here more often?

Uncertainty and Hope

Beloved, let us sit down together in the shadow of the oaks; let us take deep draughts of fresh water from the clear, swift stream. In the scorching heat of the middle of day, let us take refreshment like the dragonflies that skim the water’s edge, and be restored by the caroling of birds in the distant shade.Digital illustration from a photo: By the Cooling Stream

The days are long and our work makes wearying and seemingly infinite demands, and we know that this will not soon change. There is change of many sorts ahead, this we know too, but what it will be is yet beyond our imagining. Thus it has been, and so shall it ever be: we travel our paths, seldom knowing quite where they lead, and we labor in darkness the while. Some days, the destination is sparkling joy, and on others it is marred by sorrow and strife; at times, the mists of uncertainty part and the way ahead becomes clear, and at others it remains quite fully obscure.

Photo montage: Beloved, Let Us Sit

What I know, Beloved, is this—that no matter how hard or easeful is the road and no matter what the destination holds for us, we walk our way together, you and I. We may long for clarity and even for the strength to wait for it, but in the meantime we will take our stops for breath along the way, sitting in shade when we may and drinking deeply from the icy stream, traveling always hand in hand no matter what the journey brings.

Lounging Around

There’s nothing like a long stretch with a too-busy schedule to remind me how important it is to slow down and do some meaningful Nothing once in a while, even if it makes me miss one or two seemingly crucial other things. Every time I remember to take that kind of break, I notice that no matter how much I think I was letting go of, leaving undone, and missing out on doing, the world has not once ceased to turn. Civilization has not only not ended while I was ‘off duty’ in a moment of relaxation, but has very likely been somewhat improved by having a little break from my ignorant interference in its progress.
Photo: Laid Back Loveliness

Sometimes it’s really useful to deliberately put my head in the clouds. Or to stare at the floor, for that matter. When I stop gazing exclusively at the stack of paperwork in front of me, thinking only of the next three items on my to-do list, or listening merely to the rattling of the voices on TV, telephone and in email correspondence that are all demanding my attention, I can notice that I’m walking across incredibly worn but still vibrant Majorcan tile in a room full of paneled walls and acres of ancestral portrait paintings, and that’s just en route to some other thing entirely. I might get to that Other Thing and find that it’s only a small courtyard, but one full of sunlight split into dazzling rays by a fretwork of wrought iron artistry that may very well have been behind deadline in its production because the artisan thought it was more important the work be done well and beautifully than that it arrive on time.
Photo: A Gathering Place

Why do we persist in making little things mean so little when they can make a great change in our perspective? Don’t we fuss enough when we think the universe is treating us so neglectfully and with such unwarranted disdain? I think it’s only fair that if I want to be treated with any sort of respect by the universe, perhaps I ought to give it some of the same attention and admiration as well. Far better than wasting my precious life resources on endless effortful chores that will only wait for my return anyway, is to spend a bit of that time instead on admiring the goodness of a threadbare Turkish rug and relishing the thrum of steady conversation about unimportant yet interesting details of the day’s quiet events, talk between real people who stand on that very same carpet at the very same moment and, amazingly enough, listen when I reply.

Seeking Sabbatical

Everybody needs a break. Not everyone gets one or is in the position to take advantage of it, but when the opportune moment arises, it’s a gift that should be savored. After all, it gives us far more energy for going forward with style.Digital illustration from photos + text: Recess

Gently into the Night

digital illustration from a photograph

Reparations

While the quiet of the evening draws its curtain on the noise

Day had clamored ’til its leaving, I will lie in calm and poise,

Gently as a bed of lilies bends in summer’s kindest breeze,

As the cat turns, curling, ’til he’s found his pose of greatest ease;

While the dusk falls, silent, deeper into night, my eyelids close

Heavily…I’m soon a sleeper in the stillest of repose…

Midnight finds me softly dreaming, all the day’s loud clatter gone,

‘Til birds chatter at the streaming light of the approaching dawn

While I lie in silent dozing where no sound comes breaking through,

All that shouted ceases, closing restive lips—and spirits, too,

Slip like shades and never flutter more than deepest sleeping sends

To the surface from the utter place of healing and amends;

I will rest here in the solace and the silence so supreme

It can quiet every call as I lie still and, gently, dream…digital illustration from a photograph

I Find Respite in the Woods

We all find our places of escape where we can. Having grown up in the Evergreen State and not far from both the vast forests of Mt. Rainier and the green refuge of the Olympic Peninsula’s rain forest, I have always found trees and wooded places a comfort and a place of safety and reassurance. No matter how deep the sorrow and pain, I have found strength returning to me and a gentling of the spirit poured on my woundedness in those times spent in the protective forest greenery. When I can spend time among the trees and relish their distinctive and individual beauties, I find myself rescued and my hope renewed.digital illustration

To the Woodland

Cedar, bless me with your resinous breath,

And oak, stretch down those knotted arms to me

And close me in, so others cannot see

My sorrow as I stand so near to death—

I come here to the woodland for relief

Among the leafy shadows of the glade,

Hoping to leave my sadness where I’ve laid

It here, a monument in shade to grief—

Sweet birches, bend your green to veil my tears

And weep with all the willows, as I do;

Great trees, for graces have I come to you

Each time that I grew mournful through the years—

I come here to the woodland for relief

And leave a monument, in shade, to grief.

This mottled darkness will give way to sun

Anon, as time flows on, and so shall I;

The dead still sleep, no matter how I cry,

And I must live, or my own death’s begun—

And I’ve much yet to live, and purpose find

In bringing others light who, too, repine

That have no pine-groves filled with peace like mine

As balm and rescue for a troubled mind—

Who know not aspens’ kindly whispered care—

Should all seek peace and comfort in the wood,

These mercies surely better us, their good

And healing gifts send us renewed from there—

So we’ll go to the woodland for relief

And leave in shade, as we emerge, our grief.digital illustration

Saving My Reverence

photoI sat by the river. We were visiting town for a conference, and my spouse was going to some sessions I didn’t choose to attend. The weather was very warm, an overcast early spring day with a mild-mannered breeze, and being indoors in even a perfectly nice hotel room is a waste on such a day, so I walked down to a spot nearby and sat by the river.

As daily life passes in its ordinary ways, I so rarely pause and think deeply about what’s happening in my orbit. It’s so very easy to forget to look around to stop and let go of all forms of busyness and buzz, and simply Be. To sit by a river for an hour doing nothing can become everything.

In that hour I was silenced, stilled. I felt a deep repose settle in me, a sense of quiet peace that I hadn’t realized had been absent, banished to memory by the constant chasing and chatter of ordinary things for so long. Even the soft conversation of passersby and the rush of traffic on the road so few paces away were hushed to a sussurant tide washing the shores of my peripheral perception. Closed in an invisible veil of calm, I felt my reverence for simply being alive well up, awaken in me, renew.

The light scent of cut grass overlaid the ambient dust of a dry week; the crunch of passing footsteps was so soft that even the river’s low whisper beyond could be heard, punctuated by the distant fluting of some bird tucked under the trusses of a bridge. The hazy overcast hid the face of the sun, but its warmth suffused my skin until I thought I, too, might radiate light and heat. My usual inner litany of things demanding my efforts and attentions slowed, and slowed again, until my state of rest was such that I let go of nearly everything, even that sense so common in those rare moments of pause, that I should sleep. This was the rare kind of rest in which I would far rather be awake.

Action and angst and haste and harriedness always return soon enough. But in a moment of genuine and grateful repose, I found refreshment that can underlay it all and remind me to embrace all that is peaceful and contented within. If I am wise, it’s to this power I will assent to bend.digitally painted photo