It’s the small things

As is quite usual for me, it’s the small things that seem most to mark my days. Yes, I am aware of larger patterns and shapings, but they are not so immediate until they are. The little things though, well they are there and not always for long.

They catch my attention,

draw my eye,

Wee toadstool

change my whole plan and framing of a day.

It happened several times this week, I paused to look carefully. I spent the time to look very closely to see if I could take some photos I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for days that feel like weeks due to my frustration. But in the last week I got the photos.

            

Doing so was an exercise in patience and perseverance, in gentle negotiation with my subject, battling the wind and rain, and plain dogged determination to succeed if I could. To prove something to myself. About myself, maybe. About my place in the greater scheme of things, perhaps. And, just possibly none of these.

The one incident that stands out, however has to do with a moth. I was walking down one of the streets I take frequently to get away from the village far enough to have a long view of the countryside and not hear the roar of traffic. I came upon a moth in the middle, smack dab in the center of the road. I did not feel I should leave it there, since it did not stir as I approached I knew something was amiss.


I gathered it up gently and began a relationship that lasted nearly an hour, which I imagine for a moth is a very long time.

I could tell it was letting go of its life, having sustained an injury. So I spent some time trying to listen for what it wanted me to do. If it had any last wishes. I tried a few times to put it on a sturdy branch or a wall, but it would have none of it. We went to one of my favourite looking out places and I leaned on a fence and held it to see the wide sky and the fields, it wanted to do that again.

I walked slowly, for though I had errands to do, this was suddenly much, much more important. It did not mind me taking photographs of it in my hand, which was not easy given the shape of my camera, even though it’s one I can comfortable hold in my hand. The shutter, well they used to be called shutters anyway, was on the wrong side. With a bit of hand gymnastics I was successful.

We visited the Hazel and Rowan trees I commune with and one of the Willows. We walked down a sheltered lane with the hedges grown full and high — the cleavers and cow parsley taller than me. The bees were at work in the vetch. The sun was not shining and it kept threatening rain, but I walked on with my companion. Eventually, it became clear that it wanted to go to an Elder tree. I went past several, but I knew the one it wanted. We made our way there, and I plucked a red clover on the last bit of the walk. I knew we were about to say good-bye.

All the time we were together I could feel its clingy, delicate feet on my finger and palm of my hand. I looked carefully at its markings, at its face. It was so downy. I wondered how it managed to fly and land. I wondered how it perceived its reality. As an animist I knew it had its own wisdom and sentience, and more importantly it had a soul and ineffable spirit, somehow and some way.

When we got to the end of our shared journey, I placed it on the top of a tall wooden gate post that reached into the particular Elder tree to which we had been bound to make our way together. I placed it carefully on the post, and put the clover with it. The moth seemed contented. I thanked it for its company and sharing a small portion of its life journey with me. I did not look back. I spoke an intention/prayer that its onward journey be as it was meant to be, but painless and swift as might be.

The way back to the road where we met was a lonely walk. Such a small being took up so much space in my heart for about three quarters of an hour, but it could have been eons for all I was aware at the time. Only when we parted did I re-enter the flow of regular, mundane time. And I have no issues with mundane time. But to have those moments of extra-ordinary time are precious. If all our time was spent there we would not have the same appreciation of those instances of exceptional rarity and wonder.

The rest of that day before and after my encounter with the moth were filled with frustration, taking far longer than it should have, with far more bother to achieve the two main tasks of the day. Those tasks were supposed to be the really important ones — I know now they were not.

Welcome message to a Small One

Dear Small One,

You are only eighteen days old now. You do not know me. I know you because your daddy is the vicar here in the village where we live. I was introduced to you on the street by your mum, as she was trying out your new pram, when you were a week old. You were small and beautiful and contentedly asleep. And, it was evident to me, you are surrounded and protected by the love of your family.

I do not know if you are an ‘old soul’ or a newcomer. I have not held you, nor have you touched my hand, which is how I usually sense such things. As I am not family member nor close friend of your family there is no reason I should have had the opportunity to engage you in such a way.

But, having met you I feel there are some things I wish to share with you as you start out on your life journey.

1. Always be open to wonder. Never allow anyone to explain, or try to explain away, all the mystery of life. There really are things we do not need to understand. There are those that a best left to our faith or imagination.

2. Look up at the clouds. Allow yourself to see the great creatures and remarkable skyscapes created by the Cloud People.

3. Walk through the fog. Enjoy that the Mist Folk are giving you a multi-sensory hug.

4. Don’t be afraid to get wet on a rainy day. Lift your head to the sky and let the rain splash down on your face. Be refreshed and cleansed.

5. Take the time, especially when you are an adult to stretch out in the grass under a tree on sunny summer’s morning  and let the leaves dapple the sunlight across your face. Or do the same on an autumn afternoon, letting the leaves drift the first and only time they will dance free of the tree that held them and for which they worked all their lives.

6. Make friends with trees and the hedgerows, old ones and young ones, for they are wise, forgiving and comforting presences.

7. Listen to and be nourished by the stories of your religious tradition, but also find out the stories of other faiths. What separates us is mostly how we understand and express that which is most important from a spiritual perspective. I do not any longer share the faith in which you will be raised, although I was raised in it as you will be. Please remember that religion is not inherently good, any more than religious people. Institutions and people are not perfect, though some more than others claim to strive for perfection or proclaim they possess it and hold the truth.

8. You will find, sooner or later, that life presents you with good times and ones that are not so good. You will experience, because we all do, moments of inexpressible joy and seemingly unendurable grief. These are to be lived through and with. They offer us lessons and opportunities to grow.

9. You will learn that many horrible things can and do happen in the world. Life is as perilous as it is wondrous. There are going to be floods, droughts, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and wars.  The first three are not infrequently the result of shortsighted human action or blatant inaction; the last is caused only by the ignorance, greed or stupidity of humans beings.

10. Do not give into despair though. For nature also gives solace and joy, in the beauty of birdsong and dragonfly dances; puppies and kittens to cuddle; okapis and elephants and frogs, among countless others, to at which to marvel. You will also come to experience directly the wisdom, generosity and intelligence of human beings and share them with others.

11. Live your life with honourably and with integrity. Know what you believe and value. Be able to express those not only in words, but in works. The doing of your belief and acting from your values will be by far more powerful than just speaking them.

12. Know that you are never, ever truly alone, you have Guardians watching over and traveling at your side. You may not see them, and as you get older you may not sense them in the same way, but they are there. When you feel something has brushed up against you and there is no one around and the air is still, it will be one of them reaching out and reminding you.

13. Always, always say thank you. Thank you for life and for being alive, everyday. Be grateful for small things, that seem almost too insignificant to notice. But do notice and respond with gratitude. And do this not to be noticed, but because you are aware of yourself and the world in which you are blessed to share in.

14. Know and come to experience that you are related to every single creature that lives or ever lived on this fragile and amazing planet. The physicists and chemists are right when they say we are made of stardust and thus enkinned to all the animals and plants, the soil beneath our feet and the clouds floating above our heads. But our ancestors knew this before there were any scientists. They knew because they sensed it and felt it.  So, allow yourself to sense and feel it,too. This is knowing that is far deeper and more reliable than the knowledge written in the textbooks  you will study as you go to school.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, know and remember that first and foremost, you belong to yourself. Your essential being belongs to you. Your body is yours alone. You belong to yourself before you belong to your family or your God. You have the freedom, the right and the responsibility, to share yourself only when, where and with whom you choose. Share without coercion. Share without fear. Share from love. Share only from love.

So small one. . .

May your journey through life be one filled with experiences of wonder, serendipity, challenge, companionship and love.

Rejoicing in the hope a new life brings to all of us, I offer you my blessing as you go forth to make your way in the world.