Sunday, September 19, 2010


Birds criss-cross my backyard, chirping their joy in the blue and stopping to feed at my eight birdfeeders on shepherd hooks here and there amongst the flowers. A few bolder souls go to the top of the two-tiered concrete fountain gurgling in a corner of my patio and shower unashamedly in front of me. They shake their feathers dry and swoop away contentedly.

This is what Sundays are for. Stopping, slowing, bringing the simplicity and beauty of the natural world into our consciousness. Breathing in a new beginning for a new week. Sipping my cup of hot chamomile tea under the large canvas umbrella and noticing the pink corona of flowers on the potted cactus near my feet. Seeing that the bonsai pine and the bonsai bougainvillea flourish in their ceramic dishes in the shadowed corner of our deck. Listening to the gentle chimes of the tall bronze pipes strung together and swaying reassuringly in the breeze under the eaves of my bedroom wall.

Yes, this is what Sundays are for. Not thinking of the news. Not thinking of the refrigerator needing repairs. Not thinking of my unemployed relatives a thousand miles away, or the heartbreak that their struggles bring to me on other days. Not thinking of my dear friend's cancer that saddens me at other times of silence.

The human soul needs a respite. It needs a private, sheltered room where it can lie down in peace and breathe deeply and still its sorrow or absorption in duties that perennially call. Where it can regain its strength and reclaim its beauty and humanity. Where it can rebirth itself and remember to be strong, not to waver, not to abandon anyone when darkness comes.

The beauty that summons me outdoors restores peace this Sunday, any Sunday, any day I care to truly see, reminding me that Someone much greater than I will always find a way to show us hope and serenity.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


In the old times, long before the advent of telephones, telegraphs, and even something as ordinary today as newspapers, there was one written form of communication that kept humanity connected: personal letters. Communicating our news, our thoughts and fears, our hopes, our daily lives, our plans was important, as it still is. But since people not in our immediate presence couldn't be contacted privately and directly back in the old days, we couldn't stay in touch unless we wrote a personal letter--signed, sealed, and delivered by one human being to another.

A piece of paper: the magical link to keeping humanity together, in touch mentally, emotionally, spiritually!

How easy it is for today's texters and e-mailers to forget that personal one-on-one communication wasn't always an instant thing. It wasn't always easy, wasn't something we could do while standing in line to get a cup of coffee and rush to work.

Anyone with anything of import to say, back in the old days, said it in letters. Important people, rich people, business people. Lovers arranging a tryst, and husbands and wives missing one another. Doctors sharing information about a patient's illness, attorneys discussing an inheritance, scientists describing a new discovery. Friends and family and neighbors writing about the vicissitudes of daily life and their commitment to navigating one day after another. Staying in touch was harder, of course, if you were poor and didn't have paper and ink. But everyone with these fundamental items--paper and ink--was practically assured that he or she was tethered to someone else of importance in life, no matter how far away that person was.

How easy it is for us today to forget the tremendous importance of these simple pieces of paper, so fragile and ephemeral as physical things, in our understanding and appreciation of mankind, of the history of humanity, of our evolution as societies flung far and wide. Letters delivered, read, shared, discussed. Stained with tears of sadness at tragic news, or with tears of joy at love professed. Folded in apron pockets, or soldiers' tunics, or within the folds of magistrates' or emperors' flowing robes. Opened and re-opened, tucked away in dusty boxes or drawers. Or torn in anger or despair, a piece of paper destroyed for the words it carried. How amazing it is that letters survived, tied with ribbons and scented with perfume, or stuffed into trunks in attics, or placed in books for memory's sake.

Generation after generation, century after century, eon after eon, these elemental, simple pieces of paper carried literary DNA's of our human connectedness and evolution. That old letters survived at all is another realization to startle us, to amaze us with its implausibility, to make us marvel at how this early form of communication among the masses--so widespread, yet so personal and private--kept humanity linked.

Letter-writing as it was in the old days--the taking of pen or pencil in our hand to set our thoughts to paper--may fully become a lost art someday, as things seem now. Our fingers clicking on plastic while words form magically on lighted screens will also someday seem archaic. But let us never forget the immense power of people wanting to communicate, the indestructibility of their ancient means of doing so, and the permanence of something so impermanent as mere pieces of paper.