There are times when what initially looks like an obstacle or an obstruction isn't that at all. I'd like to share three small stories from my day today.
Like many people, sometimes I love Comcast, sometimes I find the company to be aggravating. For the third month in a row I had to call them this morning because of the same billing problem. After going through a million prompts (well, it seemed like a million), I finally got a live person, and just as she was looking into the problem we got disconnected. And so I called the company again, went through the prompts and got disconnected again. (Evidently they have a new phone system that is having challenges.) As you can imagine, at this point I was feeling rather frustrated, and annoyed that this was taking so much time. The third time things finally worked, I got through and asked to speak to their customer solutions department. She apologized, and gave me free dvr for a year. So - what looked and felt like a series of obstacles turned into a pathway for more money in my pocket.
I stopped at Chipotle for a burrito bowl for lunch, and put my jacket on a chair to reserve a place in the crowded restaurant while I stood in line. By the time I returned, two young men had moved my jacket and taken my spot. When I pointed that out, they said, sorry, smiled, and didn't move. I looked around, and saw that another space had opened up, closer to the window. So I just said don't worry about it, picked up my jacket and moved - to a better table.
I went to the library in Bryn Mawr (which is really beautiful) around 4:45 to pick up some books. The parking lot was very full, but I found a spot toward the back. As I was preparing to turn in, a woman drove up behind me and cut into the spot. I wasn't very happy about this, but circled back through the parking lot before giving up. A much better spot had opened up in the meantime, and I parked.
They're small stories, but often the learnings from small stories have wider implications. And when three things of a similar nature happen to me in one day, I pay attention. So - what did I learn? Sometimes what looks like an obstacle, something getting in the way of what you want, is just a way of opening a path to something better.
We're so focused on drama, and moving fast, that it can be easy to overlook the subtle aspects of life. In my experience that's where so much of life's richness is found - in the subtleties, the small and vast things that are part of every day; a smile, the way a flower grows out of a stone wall, the first cup of morning coffee, the way my body works its complex systems with no conscious effort on my part, the way the light changes through the day...
Several weeks ago I visited Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. It's an amazing place, and if you've never been there, I encourage you to go. My favorite time is when the magnolias bloom. They carpet the hillside, and when they bloom it's like wandering through a fairy land. I was standing under a huge magnolia, lost in the beauty of light, form and color, loving the contrast between the white blossoms and the deep blue sky, when the breeze picked up. In that moment, I was showered with petals drifting down from the tree. I don't have words to describe what it felt like - it was a gift of grace that I experienced through my whole being. If I hadn't taken the time to slow down and appreciate a tree, I would have missed the moment.
What subtle experiences have enriched your life?
Although it's cold here in the northeast, and tulips are still a dream, spring is surging. The light is stronger, I can hear more songbirds, and snowdrops, winter aconite and hellebore are blooming in the garden. What a gift - life emerging in this way after a long, cold winter. No matter how many years I experience it, it's always new.
Wishing you the miracle of new growth,
Last year I spent the month of February in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When I returned home in early March, there was still snow on the ground and the earth was frozen at least 6" down. And yet ... in the midst of the cold, the snow, the frigid earth ... there were flowers. Snowdrops arising to gift my eyes. How wondrous that such fragile beauty (or maybe not so fragile) can grow in those conditions. Life never ceases to amaze me. May your life be filled with beauty, no matter what is going on.
P.S. I really wanted to share this experience with you, but this is the most decent photograph of snowdrops in the snow that I have. It's not my best work, and as a result, I almost didn't use this post - but the story won the day.
You can browse more of my photographs here.
An exhibition and sale of my paintings and photographs is currently under way at Cathedral Village in Philadelphia. It's a beautiful space, and they've told me that everyone loves it. Below is a review just published in their newsletter. Thanks, Skip, for the wonderful write up!
A Most Unusual Show
By Skip Shakespeare
On one side of the gallery there are several pictures of non-objective forms, created in watercolor pencil and paint brush, many of them with swirling patterns, requiring an amazingly steady hand. Within the forms are the very subtle changes of color this unusual medium makes possible. Most of the pictures are set off with small compositions made up of letters from obscure alphabets. They are the work of Cynthia Joba, who told the members of the art committee in a pre-dinner talk that she is a writer who, 14 years ago, began painting, and had a sort of spiritual awakening when she discovered her instinctive visual talent. There's no "right-side-up" - the pictures can be seen in any way. The one-word titles suggest an emotion, such as joy, but it is for viewers to supply their own responses.
On the other side of the gallery there are about a dozen photographs which look into the heart of beautiful flowers, close up, showing details we'd never noticed before. She is a great admirer of Philadelphia gardens, and obviously a talented observer with the technical skill to show the natural world in a special way.
There was no mention in Cynthia Joba's talk of any formal training, either in painting or photography. Her work is an unusual example of inborn talent and vivid experience, and it is a pleasure to see the results.
With residents who attended my talk