Today marks seven full weeks of the gypsy tour; tonight the 49th sleep out in Roy. My Oregon-Washington map is worn into three pieces. I’ve lost one toenail (left pinky) and have one smashed finger (right pinky); showers total over a dozen, six plus loads of laundry, and three thousand miles under my / Roy’s belt. The closest to city sleep was one noisy RV park outside of Eugene first week of the tour. Other than that, it’s been country, rural, state and national forests and parks.
My sister’s middle child, Sarah (28) and darling Dillion (local Port Angeles) were wed yesterday evening in a beautiful woodland setting outside of Port Angeles. Rain did not deter the fun, with dancing and music till let’s see, 4:30 am by my clock, camping as I was at the venue. There were hundreds of dahlias! A few made it to Roy as part of the morning’s clean-up. Pictures of Sarah and Dillon coming! This pic adorning Sarah with my wedding pearls.
I started in again on John O’Donohue’s book “Beauty, The Invisible Embrace: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion, Serenity, and Hope:. I’ve never made it all the way through, picking it up again and again. This trip I will. If I could have but one book, this just might be it.
The gypsy tour theme of “follow the love” could as easily be “follow the beauty”, or “allow the beauty”. One passage early on calls to me again and again, fitting so well with these seven weeks of deeper intimacy with the natural world, with the Divine. I’ll give you just snippets from the section with the heading “In Difficult Times to Keep Something Beautiful in Your Heart”.
“It was Blaise Pascal who said: ‘In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind.’
Rilke said that during such times we should endeavor to stay close to one simple thing in nature.”
Certainly, I agree. My take is that O’Donohue is suggesting that we should always hold to beauty and nature as our daily practice; not just something we reach for in troubled times. Cultivating an intimacy with beauty, with nature, as daily practice, serenity is more easily restored; experience of prayer deeper and more meaningful.
The following passage speaks deeply to my gypsy tour experience as an event of revelation — wonderfully unsettling and disconcerting to again and again to just “be with me”.
“When we go out in nature, clay is returning to clay. We are returning to participate in the stillness of earth which first dreamed us. This stillness is rich and fecund. One might think that an invitation to enter into the stillness of nature is merely naive romanticism that likes to indulge itself and escape from the cut and thrust of life into some narcissistic cocoon. This invitation to friendship with nature does of course entail a willingness to be alone out there. Yet this aloneness is anything but lonely. Solitude gradually clarifies the heart until a true tranquility is reached. The irony is that at the heart of that aloneness you feel intimately connected with the world. Indeed, the beauty of nature is often the wisest balm for it gently relieves and releases the caged mind. Calmness flows in to wash away anxiety and worry. Over against the world with all its turbulence, distraction and worry, one should cultivate a style of mind that can reach through to an inner stillness and calm. The world cannot ruffle the dignity of a soul that dwells in its own tranquility. Gradually, this serenity will begin to pervade our seeing and change the way we look at things.”
Here in the Olympic forest, the stillness and quietude create an aloneness that I get to choose, define, as anything but lonely. Am I serene? I believe so when I open to the interim world, the invisible territory of creativity and imagination. To accept, embrace, with an open and humble heart the invitation to a full life. For a very long time I the statement “Just once, I wanted a task that required all the joy I had.” stared at me from my desk. Certainly motherhood, and sometimes my right livelihood, but what now? Open to the beckoning, the calling.
I’ll leave off with “Beauty” with just a small bit from the next section headed “To Beautify the Gaze”.
“Each of us is responsible for how we see, and how we see determines what we see. Seeing is not merely a physical act: the heart of vision is shaped by the state of the soul…if our style of looking becomes beautiful, then beauty will become visible and shine forth for us. We will be surprised to discover beauty in unexpected places where the ungraceful eye would never linger. The graced eye can glimpse beauty anywhere, for beauty does not reserve itself for special elite moments or instances, it does not wait for perfection but is present already secretly in everything. When we beautify our gaze, the grace of hidden beauty becomes our joy and our sanctuary.”
Beautify our gaze, beautify my gaze. Can I do that? Not just in national parks and forests, but in traffic and cities with their shares of unpleasantness. Beautify my gaze, beautify my gaze — it all comes back to gratitude doesn’t it? From the book “One Thousand Gifts”:
“If the heights of our joy are measured by the depths of our gratitude and gratitude is but one way of seeing, a spiritual perspective of smallness might offer a vital way of seeing especially conductive to gratitude.”
I like that, a “perspective of smallness”, of gratitude, to beautify my gaze.