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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

a miracle of starlings

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Actually, it’s called a murmuration of starlings. Possibly, as Dylan Winter, the narrator of this amazing clip notes, because of the murmuring of wings.

Whatever the source of the name, the actual sight — even reduced to the size of a computer screen — is breathtaking. Starlings — those blackish birds most of us shoo from feeders — create magic in the fading sky of twilight.

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I think that’s one reason it seems so magical to me: starlings aren’t ‘special’ birds. People don’t fly to Alaska to add starlings to their bird list. But this? I would fly to see this, believe me. Somehow, the idea that ‘ordinary’ starlings can produce such beauty is comforting. If starlings, why not us? Why not you and me?

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belated thank-yous

thank you note1I love writing letters. REAL letters, on stationery, with a pen or rollerball, and the (futile) art of keeping my handwriting legible.

Thank-you notes are my favourite. Unfortunately, sometimes I’m forgetful (well, actually I’m often forgetful!). And formal thank-yous — the kind you write higher-ups — are the worst, for me. Especially if I didn’t even attend the event. The flu hasn’t helped (N.B.: there really is such a thing as ‘flu brain’).

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My father was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame last November. It’s a big deal, not just because he’s my father. Although certainly that’s the biggest part of it for me! But all the men and women inducted into the OMHoF are amazing: there’s not one who doesn’t deserve the space of book to tell the stories behind the names. DudleyJordanBritton

Since I was my father’s official ‘sponsor’ — even though it took all FOUR of his daughters, a niece, a nephew, and several other friends of the family to put together his packet for submission — I needed to write the thank-you that paid tribute to our ‘Ambassador,’ a lovely Major Roland, who made the submission process and subsequent celebration much easier than they might have been.

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But the day of Daddy’s induction, I was in Birmingham, Alabama, at the 16th Street Baptist Church bombed in the Civil Rights Era, the church where four little girls in Sunday dress were murdered. I was part of the Oklahoma delegation to the Federation of State Humanities Councils, part of the NEH.

Daddy with BuickI’d like to think my dad would understand, as he often had to miss family events. But the conference wasn’t the end of it: then came Christmas, then health and travel and flu and… I finally wrote a VERY belated thank-you for all the wonderful help we received from Major Roland and others this past week. My beginner’s heart was heavy to begin with — it’s SO LATE! — but afterwards? I felt surprisingly good.

Much of my life is like that — tying up loose ends that I’ve let fall through the many cracks in my days. If cracks let the light in, boy: is my life filled with light! And of course, it is. Which almost certainly is the lesson I was supposed to learn months ago…!

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blue days and runaways

blue ridge mountains at dusk

photo by the author

Do you ever want to run away from your life? Your ‘precious, human life,’ as the Dalai Lama reminds us…? Leave the whiney dogs that will NOT go outside when it rains, the cats that throw up in front of your chair, the laundry that needs washing then folding, the dishwasher — new as it is — that needs filling then putting away… All the things (and even people) you normally find wonderful?

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I’m dreaming of a small flat. Some whereI know the city, and wouldn’t even need my beloved roadster. Somewhere I could go out to eat every day, including breakfast, and always know the coffee would be great.

Because today is a deep blue day — as blue as the Blue Ridge mountains when I took this picture. No reason, other than vestiges of flu, and a day my grandmother would assure you was ‘dreary.’ Usually that doesn’t bother me. But today?

It does. And I have no solution other than to breathe deep and come through the other side. Although sometimes homemade chicken noodle soup helps, too…

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working back in

glass with meds

photo by the author

The problem with living in the moment is when the moment kind of…well, let’s just say some moments are better neighbourhoods than others.

Right now, mine is pestilent. As in, still flu-y. So in the spirit of beginner’s heart, I’ve been making a list of things the flu gives you (besides a virus, I mean). And number one is a new perspective.

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When you’re sick for an extended period of time, and your day parses into awake/ asleep/ eating/ dull consciousness, it’s easy to just trudge from one moment to the next. But sometimes, either the Tylenol  AM kicks in, or my brain remembers better days, and it’s like I’m an observer. Where life is slower, calmer, and more immediate. And I can catch moments like leaves floating.

Ache/ not-ache, of course. But also the kindness of others — tearing up because a nice person at work makes you a cup of tea (and no, I’m NOT contagious, or I wouldn’t go to work!). Or the joy of cool sheets when the Tylenol has worn off, and you wake up to go get another dose.

The round almost honeyed taste of yellow tea — milder than black or green, stronger than white.

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Do I notice these things the same way when I’m not sick? No, although I try to live moment by moment. Still, there’s something about being sick that means everything is both duller — the aches & pains! — and clearer (the way moonlight pours through the window mid-night).

So here’s to working back in to my everyday life,  moment by moment.

 

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