How Your Spirit fills the Space
The other day, I picked a couple of blossoms and some leaves along the lagoon where I walk sometimes, and when I got home we put them in a slate bud vase on our dining room table. The sunlight and shadows reminded me of Boehme’s sunlight on a pewter bowl and of something a student had written long after our classes together.
I used to tell my students I hoped they would never have to ‘work’. Some of my colleagues considered such talk irresponsible. But my students understood that I hoped they would find their bliss and follow it and that it was not so much what you did everyday but how your spirit filled that space. Carol had done the brave thing and come back to college, not so much to get ready for a good job as to see if there might not be more to the moment than sweat. I was glad to see some ten years later how things were going with her:
I brought red, purple, orange and green fall leaves to someone longer than ten years ago. I walked into his office as he got to his feet, smiling. Did he have something I could put it in?
Earlier that morning, I hadn’t been able to resist picking them from the trees in my back yard, magnificent from my kitchen window, their deep and fiery hues. I’d made a bouquet for the kitchen, but had captured more wonder than could be contained in one vase. OK, give someone else a close-up look at a bit of the everyday magic. I’ll take them to the college and give them to my English teacher. I knew he would be the right person.
He liked making ordinary things ‘extra-ordinary;’ and many of us would make up excuses to drop by. We always left feeling better. I read years later that someone had said that of T. S. Eliot. I knew what that writer meant. Lots of us became addicted to his capacity to illuminate ordinary moments. We were learning how to do that for ourselves, how to see every day as an adventure, to watch for the surprises that would unfold this day.
He reached into a bottom desk drawer and pulled out an old Ball glass canning jar. New leaves, old jar. A small moment?
In this present time, where I work, we like to take turns bringing goodies for celebrations ‒ or for no special reason at all ‒ we just like being accomplices in the criminal activity of wonder. So, it’s October and the trees are just now changing in the Bay Area. I am on my break walking along a path near our office slow enough to soak up my surroundings. At that pace noticing the blaze of leaves can’t be ignored. A many-hued branch of liquid amber reaches out, beckoning me closer. It is just the shape and size for a vase.
“Well, let’s bring a little something from the outside in,” I think. I’ll gather a few stems of the Toyon bush to go with the branch of liquid amber. The toyon is loaded with berries just beginning to turn red. They go well together, I decide, holding my work of art at the end of my outstretched arm in it’s vase of a hand.
In the lunchroom, I search for a suitable container. My creation needs properly framed. And there, where it had been for weeks, without so much as a tiny jog to my memory, sits a Ball canning jar, complete with snap-on lid. It fairly screams, “Use me, use me!” Time and space evaporate as the rush of images and feelings of that other present, those other leaves, and that other jar transport me.
And I remember, too, how long ago, I noticed days later that the water was all gone in that other Ball jar. The leaves were still colorful, and they had the added charm of being slightly curly, as if hooking a finger the viewer’s way, “Look at me, look at me! I’m older and more wrinkly now, but I have a different beauty.” But that day I said to my friend, “Oh, the leaves are dried out!” I reached to take them off his desk, but he stopped me, putting into words the very thoughts I had just had.
“Well, yes, they have dried out, but I like seeing them when I come in in the morning.” Once again I left his office feeling good.
Years ago I brought red, purple, orange, green fall leaves to someone. I was an adult student returning to college, nervous about being back taking classes. As I reflect on it , such moments give us back the world, the world of wonder at our finger tips. And what I’m thinking now, this present moment, is that small moments enrich our lives, not just for that time and place but for moments yet to come, perhaps in some lunch room many years removed, yet richly connected to that ordinary moment.