"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What I'm Looking For

The splash of bright purple arrayed like a fairy rug in front of the weathered stump brought me to a complete halt. Toby lolloped ahead, joy radiating and trailing behind. The river rushed by just out of sight. Sun-warmed air, along with the pace of the walk until then, made my blood rush and pinked my face.

Wild violets, the first flower of spring here, surprised me. Even though I've been looking for them since early February, I'd never seen them in this place before. I found them in their usual patch in the park, first white and then the signature violet color. They were in full purple glory in the lawn I've come to expect to see them. So thick there that their clean sweet metallic scent fills the air.

There is something so compelling, and hopeful, about the fact that such a delicate elfin flower is one of the first to declare the end of winter.

Seeing violets in a new place felt like a special gift. Although this time of year every new splash of color, every bird sighting,  and every gentle breath of wind feels like a special gift. While the gifts of winter are hard-earned and stark in their beauty, spring's are lush and abundant and generous.

The route of Toby's walk goes from the campground where I saw the violets to a particular beach on the river. Without really thinking about it, at certain places on the trail that runs parallel to the water, I stop and search. This is where I often find eagles on the snags on the other side.

Lately a pair of common mergansers has paddled along the shore most days I'm there. The only thing common about them is their name. Like Lucy and Ricky, she a wild redhead, he looking slickly polished with a dark green head, they move with the current. Even Toby in the water rarely concerns them into flight or a more hurried paddle.

On this particular day they were nowhere to be found. Neither were the eagles, which I know are nesting now somewhere in another part of their territory. Instead my searching eyes found high-flying swallows, the first of the season.

In a clearing on the same walk, I stood rapt, witness to the wild courtship display of an Anna's hummingbird. He caught my eye as he flew straight up, so high I almost lost sight. And then, like a car on a roller coaster, he swooped down in a perfect half-circle arc, ending in a curlicue directly above the female whose attention he sought. He repeated the maneuver a dozen times or more until they both flew off in the same direction.

At some point in the walk, the words, "you find what you're looking for," bounced around in my head. I could even hear Amy Grant's voice, although song lyrics are rarely a part of my thought processes. I realized that I do find exactly what I'm looking for, and that there is great power in knowing that.

My daily walks are one constant search for surprises and for the comfort of the reliable. I don't see eagles every day. I don't spot magic carpets of violets every day. I don't even see anything exciting every day. But what I do find is confirmation that the world is full of beauty and miracles and gifts both large and small. Every single walk provides some bit of light to eyes searching for evidence of it.

I considered that what is true for my time in nature might also be true for the rest of my life. The defenses of childhood are no longer necessary. Looking for danger, which was real and ever-present, helped keep me safe. I could hide. Or I could armor myself. Vigilance was essential for survival. Looking for gifts was risky business, especially in relationships, and I found I couldn't do both at the same time.

As is so often the case, the danger is long past, but the defenses are slow to come down. For one thing, they become so automatic, it's easy to not see them at all. For another, habit is habit, and cannot be broken without conscious effort.

 So what if I consciously and intentionally look for the miracles in relationships that I see so easily in nature? If I look for confirmation of my worth. If I look for the best in people.  If I look beyond fear and anger and acting out. If I look for adventure in routine, freedom in structure, laughter to soften hard edges. If I look for love in every situation. I will find what I'm looking for.


Barb said...

Hi Deb, I rode the lift today with women from Washington state - I thought of you. I'm glad you're seeing signs of spring - in Nature and in your heart. I heard an instructor on the mountain today talking patiently to a young girl who was whining, "But, I'm going to fall!" He talked her through several successful turns and then said, "Instead of saying "I'm going to fall!" say "I'm not going to fall!" I had to smile when I heard this: a positive affirmation to counteract what was going on in her head. Sometimes, we must be brave enough to take a chance!

yaya said...

Those lovely violets are my favorite weed in my yard! Some years they are so thick it looks like a purple pond in the backyard. I love them! I love finding the unexpected in our woods...like daffodils growing in the middle of the creek (if spring ever gets here!) I like the unexpected in relationships also. There are times when I just don't connect with some personalities in people. I've found that when I put "me" as the problem and not "them" and change my attitude to look for the good in them, the whole relationship changes for the better. I hope your Spring walks in nature and in life are wonderful this year.

Linda Reeder said...

Your words today have a lovely soothing effect on me. I recognize in me the power of a good walk in making things feel right.

Retired English Teacher said...

Again, with your writing, you have evoked so many memories and thoughts for me. Violets found in a nature walk are truly a gift. That they surprised you even as you were looking for them and found them in a place where you'd never seen them before is such a metaphor for life. Of course, you took this metaphor and ran with it and thereby created such a lovely reflective piece on how we do see and get exactly what we are looking for so often. But then again, we are surprised and graced by new lessons in life when we find that when we are open we see beauty.

I wish we all could get beyond looking for our affirmations in other people and taking messages on our worth from what we get from others. Those messages from the past that we aren't worth much are so hard to over come. Thankfully, just as the violets appeared, grace also appears and carries us through those rough places and allows us to love and be loved.

DJan said...

I cannot imagine you NOT looking for love in every part of your life, Deb. You are filled with it, and when I think of you your smile makes me smile. I loved this gentle piece and thought of the violets I saw as the first flowers this springtime, too.

And thank you for the lovely comment you left on my post yesterday. You can't help but generate love. :-)

kario said...

I love your message, and the notion that when we stop looking for something specific (eagles or trillium), we can find something more deeply meaningful. So often in my life if I just stop prescribing boundaries for what something ought to be like (if she loves me....), I can get out of the way and discover that there is so much more to be experienced. You in nature is a lovely thing. Thank you again for sharing.

Richard Hughes said...

It's funny, but I think we have those same wild flowers in Florida.

Teresa Powell Coltrin said...

Aren't the violets such a treat? And yes going on walks opens up our world. Each time I go, there is something new to see.

Beautiful post!

Dee said...

Dear Deb, my mother always used to say to me, "Dolores, you find what you look for. If you look for good you will find it, and if you look for bad you will surely find that also." Those words have become a guidepost for me throughout life. They were one of her great gifts to me. Peace.

Terri Tiffany said...

Hi Deb, I haven't been around in awhile but glad I stopped by today. This paragraph :As is so often the case, the danger is long past, but the defenses are slow to come down. For one thing, they become so automatic, it's easy to not see them at all. For another, habit is habit, and cannot be broken without conscious effort.
Spoke to my heart. I tend to not let my defenses down and judge each situation by the past. I like what you said about maybe letting it go and seeing each new relationship etc as we do in nature. You see what you are looking for and I want to see blessings not fear.

Deborah Barker said...

Keep looking Deb and you are sure to find. Some days I am lost in a world of my own as I walk through the woods and the fields but on others, everything is sharp and keen to be seen. Loved reading your post, as always :-)

Deborah Barker said...

Keep looking Deb and you are sure to find. Some days I am lost in a world of my own as I walk through the woods and the fields but on others, everything is sharp and keen to be seen. Loved reading your post, as always :-)

Sandi said...

Hey Deb! What a surprise to run into you and Mark yesterday at the restaurant! Talk about finding joy when we're not looking for it! I see you so seldom these days, and it lifted my spirits to see you unexpectedly yesterday.

I pulled a lot out of this post: seeing what we're looking for, being open to being open, and, "habit is habit, and cannot be broken without conscious effort."
Dang, isn't that the truth!

Thanks for the reminder to keep my eyes (and my heart) open.
Love you and hope we can squeeze out a few hours or a day toward the end of the week. :)

Midlife Roadtripper said...

"For one thing, they become so automatic, it's easy to not see them at all."

I understand those defenses. They do come so easily and often takes such effort to stop them and say to ourselves - no let's look at this differently.

Cynthia said...

Last year my "word" for the year was Expect Good. It has become a habit that has enriched my life immensely, causing me notice and find delight in so many surprises. I can't wait until the violets bloom here--my yard is full of them.

joeh said...

Sounds like you walk a really nice path.

kt said...

I am glad that you are still blogging.

Seeing what you see through your eyes and the words you wrote reminds me why I enjoyed your posts so.