“You are here!”

While revisiting a series of photos I snapped after an ice storm a few winters ago, I noticed this one, a close-up of a clump of sweet autumn clematis vines, frozen solid:

The seed head in the photo’s center caught my eye today. For some reason, it reminded me of those red stars you search for when you’re lost in some labyrinthine space and need to find your whereabouts on a locator map.

“You are here!” says the locating star.

What do you suppose would happen if, theoretically, you had to navigate your way through the labyrinth of vines in this photo? What a convoluted mess you’d face. To extract yourself from a tangle like this, how could you know which path to try first? With too many options and no one, clear road, you might freeze in your tracks, just like this seed head.

Life is like that. You wend along your merry way when, suddenly, you enter territory where no clear path is evident. You stop. You blink. You rub your eyes. You look around. Which way should you go?

You freeze.

You’re lost.

In my life, I’ve felt lost more times than I care to enumerate. I’ve felt lost in the company of those I clearly didn’t belong with, lost on the career path as I moved from job to job. Before I was ready to handle the deaths of those dearest to my heart, I found myself lost and alone in an endless maze of grief.

When it comes to feeling lost, there are hundreds of scenarios possible. Live a little while and you’ll plow straight into one or two, or several.

Today while I turned over in my mind the hypothetical plight of a traveler frozen in a labyrinth, the words of the poet, Galway Kinnell, came to mind:

the first step . . .
shall be
to lose the way. 

And there it is:

Getting lost is bound to happen because it’s part of the journey. The discomfort of feeling frozen in a place you don’t want to be is what compels you to make your next move.

I have no special wisdom to share about how to get through The Labyrinth of Feeling Lost. But I know this for certain: feeling lost is most assuredly not the end of the journey; it’s merely a part of the process of moving forward into your life.

So.

If you’re feeling lost right now, go ahead, take a step. If you’re not on the right path, your innermost heart will know, and you can try again.

Remain true to your deepest self and persevere. Somehow, some way, you’ll get through this. Later on, somewhere down the road, you’ll glance back at the uneven ground you’ve covered and realize you’ve grown along the way.

As you travel, remember this: no matter how thick the tangle or unclear the path, there’s a way to get through, and you’ll find it.

“You are here!” says the locating star.

Don’t freeze up now. Go ahead, take a step.

Wishing you strength for the journey, and a light for your path.

xo

 

I can plant a seed

The fact that I can plant a seed
and it becomes a flower,
share a bit of knowledge
and it becomes another’s,
smile at someone
and receive a smile in return,
are to me continual spiritual exercises.

~Leo Buscaglia, (1924 – 1998)

Everything

Everything is made out of Magic,
leaves and trees, flowers and birds,
badgers and foxes and squirrels and people.
So it must be all around us. In this garden–in all the places.

~Frances Hodgson Burnett, (1849 – 1924)

Hurt no living thing

Hurt no living thing:

Ladybird, nor butterfly,

Nor moth with dusty wing,

Nor cricket chirping cheerily,

Nor grasshopper so light of leap,

Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,

Nor harmless worms that creep.

~Christina Rossetti, (1830 – 1894)

love gathered softly to place in her hands

love gathered softly to place in her hands

It’s spring again, miraculous spring. Every street in town is lined with flowering dogwood, crab, pear – everywhere, boughs are in riotous bloom. In my gardens, something new unfurls daily. The woods are awash with wildflowers, and all along the driveway, violets gem the grass…

For me each year, the first violets of spring bear on fragile stems the weight of perennial tenderness. I stoop down to hook a finger beneath a bowed purple head. As I study the contour of this familiar face, I’m amazed by the power one simple flower wields over my heart and mind…

From the time I was old enough to toddle off to woods’ edge, I kept my mother in fresh-picked wildflowers. The first bouquets I carried home to her each spring always included several long-stemmed wood violets. One year, when I was seven or eight, Momma sent me off to the woods on a special mission to select only the choicest violets. I returned with dozens of flawless specimens. Together, we washed the flowers, a delicate task. We shook them gently dry and arranged them on clean white dish towels, taking care not to bend or bruise any petals. We snipped blossoms from stems. Then, after using tiny brushes to paint the flowers with a wash of egg whites and water, we sprinkled each one with a shower of sugar crystals.

Later, the house filled with the aroma of angel food cake pulled fresh from the oven. When it cooled, Momma frosted it with a white sugar glaze into which she pressed a pattern of sweet sugared violets. It was simply a vision, that cake, and young though I was, I was limp with the romance of a cake covered in violets…. (Alas, no photos were snapped of that eye-popping confection, but in my heart’s album, it glistens on a page all its own.)

Twenty years of violets bloomed and faded…

Then came a day like no other, a day I could never have imagined when I was a child wandering among the wildflowers – the day I held a newborn flower in my arms, a blossom fresh-plucked from heaven: our first child, our sweet Margaret, a precious baby girl newly home from the hospital, bathed and swaddled and dressed in a long white hand-smocked gown Momma had made for her. Margaret was just a day or two old when I looked from her face into Momma’s eyes and said, “I so look forward to all her firsts – her first smile, her first words, her first steps…”

My gentle mother had more poetic firsts in mind for her granddaughter. She said softly, so softly I barely could hear, “Imagine showing Margaret her first violet, her first star. . .” Momma looked at me, yet somehow right through me as the words fell from her lips. For a heartbeat or two, time stood still for me, just as it does when I chance to read a line of perfect poetry: the words ring and resonate – beautiful, mysterious, fleeting, bells in the wind…

When the snows of winter melted away to reveal Margaret’s first spring, I showed her her first violet with deep emotion. I showed her her first star. Sang her every beautiful song I knew, read her every good book I could find, pointed her toward every lovely thing I could think of, filled her days with as much beauty and poetry and joy and mystery as I could – love gathered softly to place in her hands, like the wildflowers I carried to Momma so many years ago…

As Mother’s Day nears, I have asked myself, what does it mean to mother another soul, to nurture another life? I believe it is to pluck from one’s surroundings the good things, the beautiful, the eternal, the true, and place them in another heart, like a bouquet of violets.