Small Songs

Seems like hummingbirds are everywhere this month. I think they like the hot weather. Somehow they manage to find and kiss nectar out of drought-dried flowers, wings beating faster than sight.

I remember the first time I saw a hummingbird sitting on a branch. I must have been about six. I was surprised that hummingbirds had legs.

The other night, on a golden summer evening walk, I saw a hummingbird singing. I was close enough to watch its little throat bulging like a frog’s. The song wasn’t beautiful, but it inspired me:

A finger-long hummingbird who sings, because he can,

with all his might, an off-key warble,

a brave small song because,

in the world’s great harmony,

only this finger-long, emerald-backed little man

can sing that note.

This week, I hope you sing because you can.  And because you’re the only one who can sing your note.

Silence

I wasn’t blogging last week because I was here.

101_7142

Sometimes life gets so full of noise that you can’t hear yourself, God, or anyone else. So last weekend, I did something I’d wanted to try for several years: a weekend retreat at a monastery.

I didn’t exactly plan on a silent retreat, and while the atmosphere wasn’t strictly silent for the four days I was there, talking/noise was definitely at a minimum, especially compared to what I’m used to here in the hectic, hyper-connected Silicon Valley.

At first the silence was challenging and awkward, especially when I realized the nuns and guests weren’t supposed to talk during mealtimes. There was a lot of chewing and silverware clinking. And the refrigerator droning.

But over that first hill of awkwardness, silence can be…amazing.

First all the yucky stuff from inside comes up; all the excess noise and stuffed-away thoughts. But then, like the calm that comes after a long, hard hike, better things begin to well up. Things like a quiet knowledge of the closeness of God. A sense of what’s right to do next in your life. And creativity. Lots of creativity.

You start to notice, really see, what’s around you—like the way morning dew condenses on pine needles and turns them silver.

101_7090
Or the way a clump of sun-rushed leaves looks like a bloom of butterflies.

101_7112

For the first time in a REALLY long time, I even stepped away from my camera shutter button and tried sketching some flowers by hand from the monastery garden. Unlike Ellie in my novel, I don’t have a natural talent for drawing, and I lack the patience to really practice and learn, but when you sketch a flower, you’re really forced to look at it and notice its details. You have to stop and sit with it, and teach your pencil to mimic its wild curves and shadows. In the absence of Photoshop, you notice the imperfections of real things in nature. But you also marvel at their complexity and wonder.

Monastery Sketch-Briar Rose

Silence doesn’t happen by accident, and it can be a costly challenge to flee from noise and face the first wave of unpleasant thoughts. But…beyond that…

101_7093

…silence can be truly breathtaking.

 

Spring Miracles

I never can decide whether spring or fall is my favorite season. Both are beautiful, offering change and new directions, the beginnings of new roads and opportunities. 

But with spring outside, ready to touch, see, and smell, I’m feeling a bit swayed toward the beauty of this season.

It’s in the living buzz of the bees as they stuff their pockets with pollen.

DSC07012

It’s in the scalloped edges of the new leaves, still sticky from their buds.

DSC07025

It’s in the outrageous colors of the flowers, outdoing the imagination of any fashion designer.

DSC07023

It’s in the unshorn grass, joyful to be alive and growing.

DSC07027

It’s in the unfurling petals, reaching toward the sun.

DSC07011

It’s the magic and mystery of the world coming back to life, of beauty and expectancy, of wonder even in the tiniest of vessels.

And so I pay attention.

Because each day is its own kind of miracle.

DSC07001