Last year, I wrote an entry for Thanksgiving.
A prose poem, it described my visit on Thanksgiving morning by a group of wild Turkeys, who came down from the mountain behind my home, and hung around under my windows for a couple of hours.
They were magnificent creatures, and their arrival on Thanksgiving under my windows was for me as a mystical experience, for they connected me to things larger and wiser than myself. Their appearance inspired a quick google into Native American legend and lore about these noble birds, and what followed was that I experienced the interconnectedness of land, history, and life’s collective consciousness, a broad, sweeping, and elusive reality.
I felt in awe of these birds who I saw as grand, teachers of a higher order.
As I remembered their visit this past week, I double checked when I wrote the entry. I thought it must have been at least two years ago; two, maybe three.
No, just one.
I find what I have accomplished, learned, and created this past year extraordinary; more precisely, what I’ve made myself available to, and how its shaped me. There’s no will involved, it’s willingness, and it’s a flow. And there’s been more than a year’s worth of life lived these 360 plus days.
Last year, about this time, I was reeling from a broken heart, and the loss of a misguided love who I believed was the one; I had no idea where or how the book’s narrative would take shape, and I was at a loss for its future; and for all of my optimism, I still hadn’t learned to settle into the present moment.
I was still a creature of anxiety.
After countless miles in the mountains (an exaggeration, but a nice turn of phrase), tens of thousands of words (an understatement, because the hours tossed in editing are difficult to acknowledge), a summer of gardening, reconnecting to my visual art, a month-long fast, reading and listening to endless books on writing and self-development, nurturing relationships, hours and days in meditation, and learning to breathe and appreciate in stillness, life has done what it does: grown and proliferated and effortlessly opened itself.
This past week, I thought about my first gardening this past summer. I brought my pots in a month or so ago, and the basil and parsley and cilantro have eked out an existence in the back room, until I can afford a grow light.
The basil sits on the windowsill. It’s leaves turn toward the diminishing sun, struggling for every minute of available light; the oversized tub of parsley that sits on the floor sends out long shoots, reaching for the window, determined to get what it needs, the light of life. The cilantro, less so, because it’s slower grower and in a smaller tub, and its shoots are modest in their aspirations.
It’s an overworked metaphor for the soul, the plant growing in the light, I know. But if you’ve never raised plants from seeds, watched them proliferate under the summer sun, and then seen them struggle for what they need and want, there’s an inevitable lesson: we are here to reach for the light that makes us grow. It’s not metaphysics, it’s what it means to live.
To grow and thrive, we need our soul’s light, water, and fertile soil: and what makes one grow and flourish, may well be toxic to another. This is the beauty of difference. Orchids and parsley and asparagus fern don’t thrive in the same soil, sun, or watering conditions. The conditions we need to flourish aren’t necessarily given to us, it’s our job to create the best circumstances for ourselves with what we have, and through our choices nourish our psyche, spirit, and body, until they work and grow together, day by day, as we turn our faces toward our light, the things that make us open ourselves to life, until we stand like a regal sunflower spreading its petals in late summer.
I’ve learned that life is simple, and thriving is our rightful nature as beings on a soul guided journey: to turn toward what inspires and nurtures, and then grow.
Writing tens of thousands of words has been part of my growth, part of my life’s light, writing until I hit my truths, the things waiting to get out, the discoveries sitting like dormant seeds. As I work on life, the seeds start growing, and they find their way on the page. The relationship between art and life goes back and forth, a loop that eventually dissolves the boundaries between inner realities and outer ones. Eventually, in my mind, the distinction between inner and outer appears only as a convenient myth: everything is connected, and what I have understood as meaningless, isolated fragments wait for me to uncover their meaning and beauty.
They wait to find their place in my story arc, and this unfolding arc shows how one life relates to that great elusive life consciousness: a story connecting the individual to the universal.
In this entry, the waiting discovery planted itself last Thanksgiving morning. The morning marked by the visit of eleven wild Turkeys, who I saw as master teachers, ancient souls visiting under my window, messengers offering me a totem of things to come. “Abundance, fertility, nobility, awareness, connection with Mother earth, ” the animal symbolism website informed me. Did I think a year ago that tens of thousands of words would allow me to discover more about love, life, and growth than I’ve previously known? Did I expect that a summer of gardening and books and art and new relationships would begin nurturing parts waiting to come alive?
No. I have lived more this year than any year before, creating, breathing, exploring, writing tens of thousands of words (in fact, hundreds of thousands), including a prose poem written a year ago, under the morning sun, and prompted by the visit of eleven magnificent creatures whose promises carried more weight than I imagined.
Tens of thousands of words later, a year having passed, and I recognize that I barely comprehend everything for which I should be grateful. So I surrender myself to the feelings that ripple through me and travel into the ether: the joy of being alive and grabbing the scraps of happiness that float around me, catching one, letting it go, catching another, letting it go, hoping that someday I’ll see the big picture better, grabbing scrap by scrap, until the horizon’s filled with nothing but glorious scraps of bright colored tissue paper like happiness .
For I have another belief, one supported by science: as my gratitude grows, it spreads, and these feelings shape an incomprehensibly resilient and achingly fragile world, as water shapes stone.
May you see your meaningful totem, and honor its importance.