What’s in Your Secret Garden?

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“Two things cannot be in one place. Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”  -Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden

 

This quote is from Goodreads this week to my Facebook feed. I love it. It sums up in 18 words what I have spent a lifetime of inquiry learning about. I’m lucky enough to have been living at a time when ideas about the power of the mind have been abundant and easily accessible.

One of those ideas–the Law of Attraction– has gotten a lot of press in recent years. “Spiritual celebrities” tout the idea that thoughts are things. And they have written books, produced DVD’s, given lectures, and made schools and certifications about this idea: Change your thoughts and you change your circumstances. The Divine Vending Machine is now open and you’ve got your nickel. It’s the Parking Space Church.

Don’t get me wrong. I have demonstrated the notion of thoughts, as levels of consciousness, “attracting” and out-picturing many, many times.  I have also demonstrated that affirmations—written or spoken statements of thoughts—are positively useless without an accompanying unwavering belief. I think where these get sort of sidetracked is forgetting the first part of the above “equation,” about two things not being in one place.

In Leviticus 19:19 the writer paints a similar picture, ‘You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.” The structure here is a lot like the Burnett quote. First a principle, then the metaphors that illustrate it.

It would be easy to focus on the application part of this, without giving full enough attention to the premise. The “how to” is obviously meant to be the easy part. (It was also easy to codify the examples and forget the rule.) Anyone could see the folly of those examples, however, which is found in the word “not.” They are things no person in their right mind would do. Mess up your cattle breeding program?—no. Two kinds of seed would be a nightmare to harvest (wheat and tares???) And garments of two types wouldn’t work—the heavier or newer fabric would inevitably pull the lesser or older cloth apart. Just as you’d keep your cattle, your field and your garment “single,” so your thought would be single-minded on God’s words. It would be foolish not to.

So what happens when we back that up? Two things cannot be in one place. Keep My statutes. Well, that all boils down to the first Commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods but me. Jesus re-iterated the “whole of the law” by saying, “You shall love God with all your heart, mind and strength….” (and how to do that—love your neighbor as yourself—egads! Another premise followed by practical application!)

If we apply this to Burnett’s quote, we know that we can’t keep God in contest with anything else. And to do that we tend our roses: goodness, truth, love. The thistles of fear—lack, loneliness, illness and worry—then get no toe-hold. My new mantra, then, is to “Tend my roses.” I hope you, dear reader, have a perfectly rosie 2012!

Angels in the Architecture

As I type this the first little pastel swaths are visible out my window here on the east side of Braddock Mountain. We never get to see sunsets here. The sun goes over the ridge early in the day—maybe 4 o’clock-ish now, and so beautiful sunsets happen without us. But we do have the corner on the sunrise. It’s awfully pretty up here at dawn and the trees get all silhouette-y against it.

When I lived over on the east side of the city, I remember being flabbergasted when a friend mentioned that he never saw the sunsets. As a “flatlander,” I couldn’t imagine such a thing. What do you mean you never see a sunset—it’s right there! Now I live over here and no sunset is a daily occurrence. It’s all a matter of perspective. As with a lot of things in this big world, it’s there—I just can’t see it.

Perspective is a crazy thing. We have an “angel” over at Carroll Creek that has been painted as perspective art. Here’s how she looks from the most vantage points.

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From most standpoints, she looks all skewed like this. If you’re down on Carroll Creek you’ll see folks moving around the creekside or up on the bridge she’s painted on to get in the right place, but the only right place is inside the adjacent art gallery. They’ve been told at the nearby kiosk that the painting isn’t meant to look all wonky but you have to be in the right spot to experience the real painting.

Here’s how she looks from the vantage point from inside the designated window in the gallery.

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Our world is skewed from most vantage points. You’ll see people going all over the place and doing crazy stuff trying to see it right. This started in Genesis 2. However, before that, in Genesis 1, we’re told that God made a good world. That’s really the only kind he could make as it’s not in His/Her nature to make a bad world. It was only then in chapter 2, that Adam and Eve stepped out of the right spot and into a world of the belief of separation from God, which blooms into a belief that God can be angrily terrifying and will withhold good from His/Her children. The origin of the word “sin” comes from an archery term that talks about not hitting the target–not getting to the right spot.

If you didn’t get to that window to see the correct version of the angel, you’d simply believe the artist made it that way for some reason and that you’d never see what the right version of the angel was. You might even go along forgetting that it was skewed. You’d just say to friends, “Well, there’s the wonky angel. We don’t know why it’s that way—just somebody wanted to paint her all catawampus and we just deal with it.” And your friends would take pictures like that first one and that’s all they would know about it. Frederick has this messed up angel painted on a bridge.

It’s Christmas tomorrow. Jesus came into the world standing in the right spot. He believed in a God who was good: all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present. He saw the correct version of everyone he came into contact with. He didn’t waste time on that stretched out, inappropriate view. He knew the truth of it and He spent his time here showing us where to stand.

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Prayer Ablaze–a woodstove meditation

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The fire was unusually cranky and snuffy the other day, demanding my almost constant attention to get it going. There’s a wee wooden stool near to the woodstove so I drew that up for a sit while I was nursing it. Watching the flames, I was struck by how much a fire says about prayer.

When we enter our “prayer closet,” whatever that might be, what we’re really entering is the unseen, unfelt flames of Spirit which burn all around us, all the time. Just as the log doesn’t come into the fire to tell it how to burn, we come to God to be with God, to get more understanding of Divine Mind. Who are we to give advice to God or to tell him more about the situation because (S)He doesn’t know what’s going on? It is ourselves that don’t know what’s going on and must come to prayer to learn the Truth of it. We’re just there to burn.

Somehow I was reminded of the scene in Avatar, in which the Na’vi, who are under attack by the humans come together to ask their goddess Eywa for help. (I’m going from memory here so maybe stay with me a bit longer.) Both Na’vi and the avatars have on the back of their heads a “queue,” which is an external neural bundle which allows them to plug in to the Tree of Souls, the Tree of Voices or each other or to animals, providing an instant and deep bond that, while not transmitting intelligence, allows each to participate in the shared memory and will.

When asked how to pray, Jesus began with “Our Father” which goes on to say “us”—never me or I, so clearly there is a shared nature in prayer. First is recognition God as the all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful Father. Next is unification with God’s governance and will. Next is a declaration of how every need, both material and spiritual, is supplied, followed by thanks-giving that God is All-in-all. And finally agreement—it is so!

My fire was sputtering and smoldering, both due to recently cut wood that also had gotten condensation under the tarp that’s stretched over the pile. The sap and water are foreign to fire and keep it from burning. I would have to wait for the moisture inside to steam out before the wood would burn.

 The sap is another story—thick sometimes, it just doesn’t want to budge. When we come to God with that which isn’t released and is not of Spirit, our prayers resist the divine fire. This is me more times than I would like. What I needed to do was find some older wood from the stash downstairs. All that wasn’t burnable is out of this wood already and so when I toss it on, it takes flame instantly and burns bright and hot. Sometimes in our spiritual journey, we can surely benefit from those whose wood is more seasoned.

Now the fire is burning well and hot. It’ll mind itself while I go do other things, although in the back of my mind I know I need to come and toss on another log every now and then. If I let it burn down too low, the firebox gets too cold to burn well and so I’ll have to stop and nurse it again to get it going hot. Similarly, we’re advised to “pray without ceasing” to keep the firebox hot enough for a “good burn.” When we return to the Fire again and again, it makes it easier for us to take light/Light.

Walking on Broken Glass

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A couple of weeks ago, the Munchkin and I came home and found a broken window here next to the computer desk. I surmise that the Twins got wound up—either because of the Boys or simply because they could—motored in here (a straight shot from the living room), slid across the top of the two-drawer file and slammed into the window. Nobody was hurt in the disaster.

Ordinarily I’d have insisted on this to be fixed that day or the next, and I can’t even say it’s the tight household budget that didn’t foresee new window glass that is the reason why it’s still not fixed. I blame the storm window for picking up the slack. Sort of.

Whatever the reason, though, it reminds me of a sociological idea called the broken glass theory. Law enforcement has seen this in action for millennia. The theory goes that the first sign of indifference/neglect—such as the first broken window that is left unrepaired—in a neighborhood, say, will issue an engraved invitation to people in the area to break more windows and, eventually, throw trash, indulge in graffiti, and then move on to more and severe levels of crime like drug dealers claiming it as theirs. The same broken window is fixed right away and that doesn’t occur.

A teacher friend yesterday posted on Facebook about an incident in her classroom where student reports were being presented and one boy struggled through the verbal part and then played a video clip which included extremely graphic descriptions of sodomy. The long-and-the-short of it is that the parents are blaming the teacher/school. The cowed principal is offering no consequences to this boy—who in anybody’s estimation is old enough to know better (middle school). Here’s a gigantic broken window in that school—let the unfortunate games begin. I hope my friend can cope; the rest of the school year is going to be hell.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “You must control evil thoughts in the first instance, or they will control you in the second.” She knew about the broken window.

My personal broken window right now seems to be my attire. I’ve been working part time at home, in addition to taking care of the Munchkin, but 18 months of being essentially unemployed has taken a toll on my routine. I get up, let the Bun out, make some tea, all the while shuffling around in the t-shirt and sweats I slept in. I’ll get busy on a job—still slouching around in the those scrubbies. Just a little thing—everybody does it, right? Then it was that the hair wasn’t seen to until (unless) I was about to walk out the door someplace. My thought has sort of been  “Why bother?”—but lazy is beginning now to snowball into an unnatural (for me) culture of sloth. I know this because I’m starting to see “stuff” that would have normally been handled and put away recently appearing for extended runs on flat surfaces like counters, tables and floors.

So my new/old routine is to get up and get dressed first thing. Neglect starts small. It’s never the drug dealers in the neighborhood first. It’s that piece of paper or cigarette butt that’s left lying on the street. It’s some random act of minor mischief that’s overlooked or somehow tolerated. In other words, it’s all of us. It’s when we forget the “us-ness” of us. Why bother? Because it’s important to US and we’re worth the effort.

And that office window here is getting fixed tomorrow.

Less is More

Raspberry Chocolate Cake from last summer

When I stroll down our Berry Lane now in December, I can’t help but think about July when the berries were super-abundant, red, and juicy. It was pretty hot here but it was a bumper year for our berries. You could run out and pick a handful to throw on left-over rehearsal dinner cake (as in the photo) and not think twice. I literally couldn’t keep up picking them.

Now, it’s a few days before Christmas. I just got finished bringing up the next fews days’ wood and am thinking about lunch. I’m gonna get out some raspberries I froze back there in July to sprinkle on some cottage cheese. Even though I have lots in the freezer, I’m still a little miserly with them. Gotta make them last. It’s a whole different mindset than in July where there berries, berries and more berries.

I was thinking lately about paper and plastic–cash versus credit cards. Tis the season for overspending on gifts (I don’t happen to celebrate Christmas that way but many do). Having been pretty broke lately after 18 months of unemployment, I don’t use my credit cards for much of anything, but I marvel at the difference in the mindgame of paying using them or paying with cash. As with my raspberries in the freezer, i can see a finite amount of cash in my wallet which makes me a little more circumspect about making them last. My head’s in a totally different place, though, when I swipe the card. That number on the receipt simply goes into some black hole of finance to be dealt with later (which, of course, is the point. I’m old enough to remember places giving you discounts to pay with cash until they caught on that you spend more with plastic.). When I use cash, sometimes I even visibly wince.

It’s probably safe to assume that all those berry bushes along Berry Lane will produce to the best of their ability next year and the year after that, and there will be lots more than we can eat (there always has been) so it’s a fairly unlimited resource with periodic results.

Somehow this year we were on the ball and got the entire winter’s wood supply cut, stacked and covered (okay, it was only a couple of weeks ago but still….). I’m feeling that same “cash” mentality apply with it, though. I’m much more careful with deciding when it’s cold enough to light a fire (so far, so mild here), but I think it has something to do with making it last. It’s not as if we’re pressed for wood; there’s more of that old oak that was taken down four years ago and there’s always “standing heat” here on the property, as well. But something about having that stash is making me more careful with it.

Maybe it has to do with the tangibleness of things like berries or wood or dollars versus the airy potential, no matter the actual limit, of a credit line. I guess there are consumer psychologists studying this dilemma even as I type. And I don’t even think it has to do with paying now or paying later because later I’ll be picking more raspberries and splitting more wood. I think, for me, it’s the traction of being in the moment. And this moment is all there really is.

Little drops of summer

Hanging Out All Winter

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Today is a good day for laundry here in the Mid-Atlantic mountains and mine’s out there already and it’s just after 9:00 as I start writing here. When you peg your clothes out to dry, you have to be more cognizant of the weather and I consult my tried-and-true Weather Underground with an eye to both laundry and, in the winter, moving wood up and to the house from the woodlot. One of the downsides to living on a mountain is that our woodlot is down a tier from the house so it must be trailored up with a tractor. In wet weather the lawn tractor has trouble getting its footing.

Another aspect of mountain living is that we never see the sunset. What does this mean for laundry hanging, you may ask. Well, the sunny day here is short; we can lose the sun mid-afternoon in winter so the prime time for drying is gone at that point. This necessitates the clothes being out there as early as possible; many times I’m hanging and watching the sun come up, which is a whole other post. That gets me out there at close to the coldest part of the day.

I try to reduce my outside time by snapping out the articles to be hung when I take them from the machine. This, friends,is the key to cold-weather laundry drying–give each thing a good SNAP! like you may have learned in gym class. it breaks the surface tension of the water or something (I’m sure somebody will tell me but I’m sorry to be too disinterested to know). The Twins often come in to see what Mommy is doing and so sometimes when too curious of the basket of wet things by standing in it, they get an apron or something snapped in their general direction. Sometimes I do snap clothes at them just to be a pill. In any case, they leave highly annoyed with little cat ears all back and miffed.

Out at the line which is thankfully close to the house, I stood on frosty grass for the first load this morning. My hands quickly get cold and less nimble. (I might try a pair of those fingerless gloves). I get a LOT less choosey about what gets hung next to what; usually I keep the socks together and also the undies. I have to stop a few times to blow into my hands. By the time I’m heading for the door, my hands are pretty frozen.

Ice cold hands, in turn, beg a hot chocolate or cup of tea once inside and when I’m really on top of my game, I boil up some water before going out so a piping hot cup is ready to warm up my cold red hands. This, in turn, begs a sit-down and a quiet few minutes of morning before the next load. Do I wish I didn’t have to freeze out there to get dry laundry? Sort of. But knowing that a warm cup is waiting makes it okay. I’d miss that few minutes getting full feeling back into my fingers really. It reminds that when things are less than convenient a little reward is surely coming.  We’re programmed to avoid unpleasant sensations and being too cold is definitely one, but I get a certain satisfaction in getting out there, gutting my way through freezing, and then coming in to my warm house and hot cocoa. Yeah, it was really, really cold–so what?

All in all, winter laundry isn’t so bad.