“Earth knows no desolation. She smells regeneration in the moist breath of decay.”
– George Meredith, 1828-1909, English novelist and poet
Is there any better metaphor for faith than spring? Whether your faith rests in God, Nature, Love or Self. The proof that life emerges after strife — indeed, because of it — is ever present in the warmth of spring.
The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge is “Favorite Place.” While the photo was taken at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, undoubtedly one of my favorite places, it depicts more. Space for introspection, stillness, connection to Mother Earth. Solitude. That’s my favorite place.
Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.
— Paul Tillich
Cesar Millan is a well-known dog behaviorist, author and television personality. He teaches humans how to be the pack leader for their dog with calm assertive energy. If you watch carefully, you’ll learn everything you need to know to lead a pretty well-balanced human life.
Here are his 10 Principles for Achieving Balance, adapted for humans.
Be aware of your energy – Walk with ease and confidence, your shoulders back and head up. Greet the world with calm assertive energy, not aggression. Take a moment to relax before your meal.
Live in the moment – Be present. The past has gone and the future is yet to be. The only thing that exists is now.
Know the difference between story and truth – What is the story you are telling yourself? What is the truth? Believe in yourself. Know your true value.
Work with Mother Nature – Nature does not achieve balance. It works with ebbs and flows. Growth after death; flood after drought; winter after summer. Imbalance is a necessary part of balance.
Honor your [dog’s] instincts – Trust yourself. Honor your feelings, emotions and body.
Nose, eyes, ears – Use your senses to bring you into the present. What do you smell? What do you see? What do you hear?
Know your [dog’s] natural pack position – Are you an introvert? Creative? Innovative? Intellectual? Know who you are and where you fit in to the world. Don’t try to be something you aren’t.
Create the [dog’s] calm submissive state – Meditate to learn what it feels like when you are relaxed so that it is easier to recreate when you need it.
Be the Pack Leader – You do you, okay? When you’re authentic, you’re at your best, and others are inspired by that. Don’t be surprised if people want to follow you. Then be the leader they deserve.
Life is simple; we make it complicated– Love. Peace. A nice bowl of kibble. It all pretty much comes down to that.
If you want to know more about Cesar Millan, Cesar’s Way, and his 10 Principles for Achieving Balance, click here.
One fresh August morning, I thought I’d get some air and sunshine into the place. I raised shades and opened windows in every room. In the bedroom, there is one we rarely open. The shade stays down and if we want a breeze, we use the adjacent window.
But as this was a day for sunshine, I yanked on the shade to retract it on its roller. And was immediately taken aback in horror. Attached between the inner window pane and the outer storm window was a wasp nest the size of a tangerine. Not quite an orange, not a clementine, but — you know — a tangerine . . . but not quite as sweet.
Once I realized they had no access to the inside of the house, I stood perplexed. It was like one of those bee hives you can watch from the safety of a glass pane. Except I don’t want one of those in my house, and these things weren’t making honey. They were making a home and they intended to stay.
I walked outside to view it from another perspective. I posted it on Facebook, hoping for sage advice. I texted friends. I called my brother, who was on his way out of town. Unfortunately, he said, he was not close enough to help. I talked him through it, but he had little to offer.
My Facebook friends replied with everything from, “Walk back and forth muttering, ‘Tut, tut, it looks like rain’,” adding “It worked for Winnie the Pooh” to “Run!” My text query produced the response, “Call an exterminator.”
There are a few things you should know about me if you don’t already. I’m frugal. I’m not going to pay someone to do something I can do myself. I’m independent. I’m not going to rely on a man for something that doesn’t involve brawn or . . . well . . . anything else I don’t have. I’m resourceful. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and I definitely had a will to get rid of this thing and all its little inhabitants.
My new outdoor perspective unveiled no answers. I couldn’t see how they got in, nor could I see a way to launch an anti-wasp assault weapon at the nest. As far as I could tell, the only access to the nest was from the inside. I walked back inside and strategized.
The only safe way I knew to kill a nest was to shoot it with wasp and hornet spray. The only access to the nest was to open the window. In order to keep them out of the room when I opened the window, I was going to have to seal it off.
I sealed the window with painter’s tape and lightweight plastic.
Releasing a couple of inches of tape at the bottom, I used a pole to push the window up, pulled the pole out, and quickly resealed the tape.
Now, did I mention it was a very windy day? No sooner did I raise the window, but a gust of wind came and puffed my plastic like a balloon! I could hear the tape straining, then the wind sucked the plastic out as if taking a bigger breath, and blew against the plastic again. I’d like to say I watched confidently chanting, “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.” But it was more like “Oh my God . . . oh my God . . . oh my God!”
Because all the movement had agitated my little stinger-friends, they took to head-banging themselves against the plastic with fury.
Plan B was forming in my head, and it went like this:
Close the bedroom door.
Call the exterminator.
But the tape held, and the wasps calmed.
I released the corner of the sealed plastic, as far from the nest as possible (we’re talking maybe 18 inches, tops). Aiming as carefully as I could through the semi-opaque plastic, I deployed my weapon of mass destruction. Once. Twice. Then quickly pushed the tape back down against the frame.
Part of being strategic is being able to add tactics as they become necessary.
When pushing the tape to the window frame proved unproductive, I realized the wet spray toxin had rendered it un-sticky. Hastily, I dispatched more tape to the corner, while wasps buzzed, drunkenly defending what they mistakenly assumed was their turf.
It’s a cruel death, really. As pollinators, I appreciate them. As tenants, I do not, and alas they had to go.
After a reassuring period of time passed, the plastic, tape, and finally wasps were removed. I found their access, and closed the gap.
Only one live wasp returned, probably coming back to his rampaged home to discover his loved ones had perished in a savage attack. Yes, I imagine bugs think like this, and it makes my life traumatic sometimes — when I do these little things one must do to secure one’s home from pests.
Anyway, it was a mercy killing. One swift and final blow with a fly swatter brought the last one to his fate.
That afternoon — I’m sure it was karma — three wasps came in through the back door. After my earlier adventure, I felt all-powerful. Fearless, even. Swat! . . . Swat! Kill, kill . . . KILL!
I tweeted, “Call me Jean, Wasp Warrior Princess of the North.”
Balance is a condition in which an object is subject to equal forces or weights, enabling it to remain steady. The world is in constant flux. Nature is in an endless state of rebalancing itself. Humans, being more of nature than we are willing to admit, are drawn to the never-ending endeavor to balance.
Chances are, in the past twenty-four hours you have thought about balancing at least three the following:
Workload vs. Personal Time
Relationships vs. Solitude
Spending vs. Saving
Weight Gain vs. Weight Loss
Sleep vs. Wake
Exercise vs. Rest
Perfection vs. Acceptance
Beauty vs. Function
Work vs. Play
Since the beginning of time, we have pontificated the meaning of balance. Think yin and yang, buddhism and dualism. The ancient Greeks, Chinese, and the Aztecs all had great philosophers of balance. Give the word balance a go in your search engine, and you will see that nothing has changed in over two thousand years. Humankind still seeks the point of balance.
The problem with being human, is that we not only strive for a thing, we believe we can conquer it. We seek to achieve balance, as if it is something that is owned and kept. However, balance is only present for the fleeting moment between too much and too little; on the border between light and dark. The point of balance is so fragile that a soft breeze or speck of dust can overcome it.
A world with true balance would be one without wind or heat or rain. The cost of balance is monotony.
Life is not meant to be balanced. In our struggle to own balance, we have moved away from the natural ebb and flow of equilibrium. We have shifted toward a desire to rigidly control it. We believe that if only we could control everything (see the above list), existence would be a breeze. In our vision of a balanced life, we are prepared for any situation; there is time for all our duties and passions. We are healthy, happy, financially secure, and love what we do for a living. Yet, the natural world is not one of total control. It is fluid, in motion, swinging one way and then the next.
I spent too many years trying to devise the perfect menu plan, budget, schedule, diet. I tried to control the motion around me. Each day was a new chance and every bedtime was another failure. Friends hear me say that June Cleaver was my idol, and we joke about that, but it was real. Many of my best years were lived trying to be a fictional character in a time period that no longer existed. The time with my children — the laughs, the things I learned, the privilege — I wouldn’t trade for anything on earth. If only I hadn’t felt such a need to control it all . . .
While the cost of perfect balance is monotony, the cost of maintaining control is turmoil. A person believing he can achieve balance is one fighting against the natural movement around them. He is trying to stand still in the surf or stop the wind from destroying a house of cards. It is not the peaceful existence he had hoped for at all.
I am learning to enjoy a life of natural balance — shifting when the tide rolls in, regrowing after the fire dies out, appreciating the warmth of the sun before nightfall . . . because I cannot tell the sun when it is time to set.
I have found life is more peaceful this way. Sure I am still drawn to making the compulsive list or two. They can be found tucked in backs of drawers or folded between the pages of books. And so I allow myself these occasional fits of contemplation, pen in hand, eventually admitting that the balance is in the imperfection and the letting go of control.
. . . Quite recently, I was enjoying a ramble around an oblong lake not far from home. It was a grey lake, reflecting the grey sky of autumn on one of the last days before winter clasps its icy grip. It was not the type of day one would expect to see delightful artifacts, and yet I could not deny my eyes.
There, among the grasses were ruffled lavender petticoats, garnished at the hems with beads of gold. How amusing was this to me, that I nearly forgot to snap a photograph before continuing my recreation. I puzzled over why several lavender petticoats would be hanging in a group amongst the grasses, but relinquished my query to that of the elfin customs of which I would never be privy.
Along the way, there were birds that called, and rustlings in the leaves and other things that caught my ear. Inasmuch as I would love to have heard a whisper or a miniature giggle, I did not.
What I heard was a long, low groaning sigh. My feet solidified in place. My own beating heart pummeled against my chest. I turned ever so slowly and thought perhaps I had distinguished a movement, a shifting, yet perhaps it was altogether nothing. Crooking my head to the left, and then slowly to the right, in disbelief I realized a face, interrupted mid-yawn. The old oak had a long nose and a toothless grin. I had, undoubtedly surprised him the moment he surprised me. I came to realize the woodlands were filled with all sizes of creatures, both hidden and obvious, if only to the eager eye.
There are other indications of the magical world, if you are open to receiving them; a washbasin of rainwater for a tiny sprite, made from a brilliantly colored fungus; an opening in the side of a tree for looking out of, or escaping into.
One of my favorite finds was a landmark beneath my feet, in the middle of the path. A marker. A monument. Perhaps of a great victory of battle. Or a memorial of a considerable tragedy. Perhaps a beacon, a proclamation of love won or lost.
As I draw to the close of my admission, believe or don’t believe, but know this about your narrator. Of that which I have not seen nor heard with my own senses, there is little in which I regard as true. Reader, I council you to keep a keen awareness of your faculties at all times. This is, of course, wise advice for those interested in safekeeping one’s self from trauma. It is, however, a requirement for those of us who wish to keep our heart open to the possibilities that surround us all.
Pixies exist. I will admit that I, too, was skeptical. Yet as sure as the sun shines and winds blow, pixies, along with sprites, elves, gnomes and other wee folk, inhabit the earth. I present to you, here, the irrefutable evidence of such beings. If you can tell me, in the end, you don’t believe, I beseech of you to close the page; seek out your imagination, and resurrect what remains of it . . .
Once upon an uneventful afternoon, in the most dreary time of year, after autumn undresses its fiery gown and lays it wrinkled on the ground, I found myself on a woodland walk. My furry companions far ahead of me, I stepped along the well-worn trail until I heard something to the right of me. The sound, being of a scurrying type and not an alarming type, did not beckon me to stop. Rather there was something I saw that turned my head not once, but twice, and brought me to a standstill.
It wasn’t something one would see if one hadn’t been looking, but having been coaxed by a rustling through the crisp leafy floor of the woods, I saw it. Exactly what I saw was not intelligible upon first glance, but having taken the second, became immediately clear. There, beneath and around the base of a nearby tree was a well-worn path much like the one I trod. Yet this was a miniature path, fit for tiny feet, tucked under a branch, and leading seemingly nowhere.
Had this event occurred only in my deepest imagination, I might not have taken out my camera and snapped a photo. I later scoured the pixels for a camouflaged face, or the unobscured hem of a miniature coat, to no avail. There remained only the trail leading nowhere around a tree like any other.
Having had my curiosity piqued, on subsequent meanderings through the woods, I became much more aware of irregularities within the familiar landscape. There were, at the base of many a tree, openings. One might imagine a passageway, an access to underground tunnels, or a series of elevations within the tree. One might, indeed, imagine any number of things beyond the deep, dark opening in the bottom of any ordinary tree. And I, possessing a healthy imagination, conjured up a number of stories, each more fascinating than the one before . . .