Encountering Mystery

lily pond

Today’s gratitude list is unashamedly entirely based in the natural world, though perhaps I am speaking of other things as well, as is so often the case, even when I don’t know it.  I find that often the things that catch my attention in waking life are not so far distant from the mythic images and ideas that meet me in the dream world. There are layers of meaning in those images, ideas reaching out to be met and understood. What if we were to see the wakeful, open-eyed world in the way we looked at the dream-world? As though it were a place to encounter Mystery, as if each moment were an opportunity to be spoken to by the sentient soul of creation, which some people call Goddess or God, which I often call Mystery or Beauty (I recently discovered that naturalist John Muir did the same).

In this recent post on her blog, psychologist Sharon Blackie quotes James Hillman: “Psyche, Hillman said, is not in us; we are in psyche. And I believe that if psyche is shaped by myth, by mythical images and symbols, then myth is not in us: we are, in some deep and indefinable sense, in myth. ‘It is not we who imagine, but we who are imagined.’ What if we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us?” I love this.  Can you sense Myth, Mystery, God/dess, Beauty, imagining you, offering you a hand at every turn, inviting you to See, to Experience, to Encounter?

The dream worker Toko-pa Turner, in this blog post, titled “Courting the Mystery” (in which she, too, quotes Hillman) writes, “I believe one of the great challenges of our time is our coming back into relationship with mystery. Rather than making an expectation of our needs being met, let us make a courtship of that which we admire. Let us make our lives alluring enough that the mystery might become curious of us! Let us stand with a respectful distance and make an invitation of ourselves, such that wildness might decide to approach us. Let us find ways to pray ourselves to the forest, even when we hear nothing back. Let us keep returning to that silence and allow ourselves to be shaped by our yearning for answers.”

Sometimes prayer is simply the act of paying attention, of noticing the way the world calls out to us, begs for us to respond and interact and participate.  Yesterday was full of those moments for me, those callings, those shining yearning standing-in-the-doorway holy places. And I didn’t go out searching. There they were to be grasped, between the moments of bickering children, of making plans for my coming year, of getting the quotidian work done.

Now the trick is to find them even when the butterflies aren’t flying, even when the hummingbird is not dipping her head to look at me from her nest, even when the day is grey or hot, even when I am emotionally drained or angry or frightened. Beauty is still there.  Mystery is always surrounding us, just waiting to be noticed.

Gratitude List:
1. Listening to the bluebirds welcoming the morning, the song sparrow, the surrounding chorus of birds, the various clubs of cicadas powering up their drones from several corners of the hollow, and suddenly, like a shift in air pressure, the dzip-dzip-thrrrim-dzip of the hummingbird finding the perfect angle into her bottlecap of a nest.
2. Indigo buntings calling to each other across the fields.
3. Monarch and swallowtail and buckeye. Did I say monarch? Yeah, I saw one, dipping her fiery wings as she surfed a breeze over the pear orchard toward me, and it made my heart happy. So happy.
4. So many tiny frogs on the lily pads on the pond, yeeping in terror when we walked too close, croaking in the rushes. The air above the pond was electric with the movement of dragonflies and damselflies darting, and tiny frogs hopping across the lily pads.  And further up, the swallowtails made lazy lines and loops in the sunshine, spiraling all the way to the top of the tallest poplar.  I must have seen two dozen or more yellow swallowtails at the pond yesterday.
5. Watching the bat again, darting impossibly fast in her circling beneath the poplar and sycamore trees. She was so quick, my eyes couldn’t scan her. I could imagine she was winking in and out between worlds. At one point, she came and circled twice around Joss and me where we were standing snuggling. So add to this one the wonder on a small boy’s face at being recognized by a bat in flight.

In Beauty may we walk.


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