I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The art of contemplation

One beautiful part of the Flower and Garden show was a display of various ikebana student work. I looked it up when I got home and found that the word ikebana means "the art of flower arranging" in Japanese. A quote from that link:
Silence is a must during practices of ikebana. It is a time to appreciate things in nature that people often overlook because of their busy lives. One becomes more patient and tolerant of differences, not only in nature, but also in general. Ikebana can inspire one to identify with beauty in all art forms. 
For many years, I meditated on a daily basis, and I've tried to pick it up again and again, but it doesn't seem to be happening. I've got a nice place for it, and I look at the spot and try not to feel guilty about not using it more often. I do still spend time every day contemplating life in general, usually at this time, early in the morning before dawn, when the world is quiet and my mind is, too. As the day goes on and I get involved in activities, I get caught up in the day-to-dayness of life. I think it's important to take some time every day to look at the larger picture of our lives.

I just finished a very good book yesterday, Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. I saw the BBC series and loved it, and I have to say that the book is even better. Many things that were dramatized for the series are better explained, and I also discovered that it is the first book in a trilogy of stories about her memoirs of being a midwife in London's East End during the 1950s. I look forward to reading the others; the second season of the BBC series will be coming to my local PBS station soon. I hope you will look up the first season if you can, to introduce yourselves to the characters.

Many years ago, I read another book that impacted me strongly, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. Written in 1939 about a Welch family, I remember being struck by the opening passages, written through the eyes of an old man who had decided to leave the valley after so many of his loved ones had passed away. What I remember thinking at the time was how sad it is to be the last surviving member of a close-knit family. I was a young woman then, who had experienced no losses of my own. Now that so many of my loved ones have gone, that recollection of the opening passages of that book is felt even more keenly. How did I know that in my early twenties? I should re-read that book, I guess, but I've found that the experience will be totally new, and I am reluctant to disturb those strong memories.

Today my friend Judy and I will see a documentary entitled 56 Up, which is a chronicle of the lives of fourteen Britons who have been followed for 49 years, since 1964. Every seven years, director Michael Apted interviews them and adds to their stories and issues a new documentary. The initial premise behind the series was to see whether a person's socioeconomic class determines one's livelihood in the future. Judy and I saw the trailer for this documentary at our local independent theater and decided we just had to see this one. I found this very interesting review from the New York Times while looking for more information about it. I learned that three close friends from London's East End are in it, and I couldn't help but wonder if they might have been delivered into this world by the midwives from Jennifer Worth's book.

The days are getting noticeably longer now, and we are gaining three-and-a-half minutes every day. Soon now I'll be waking to the sound of birds singing and seeing light in the sky at this time. It's still dark out at the moment, a little after 6:00am in the morning. The magic of this time of the day will not disappear with the light, but if I choose to go outside and walk in the early dawn, I will be able to do so.

I am learning that the art of contemplation does not need any particular venue, but it's the state of mind that is the key. Even writing on my keyboard in the dark, with tea and sleeping partner beside me does not disturb the contemplative moment. After having written this, I think it has left me with a most wonderful and satisfying consciousness. I am content, and the completion of my task on this nascent Sunday morning leaves me feeling fulfilled and happy.


Linda Reeder said...

Being one of those cerebral introverts, I have never felt the need to PLAN for contemplation. It happens all of the time. The trick is turning it off!
But I do so enjoy your contemplative Sunday mornings. You manage a certain peace of mind that is soothing just to read.
I recently read much of the book "The Warmth of Other Suns", until the public library said I needed to give it back. Now I am reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks". It's interesting how those two books dovetail too. The "Warmth" is about the migration of blacks out of the south in the 20th century. Henrietta was one of those who migrated. But while she was a simple woman who died too young of cancer, her cells live on in medical research all over the world.
My contemplation: one never knows how one will make an impact on this earth.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Beautiful, Jan. Yes, the meditative moment can happen while washing the dishes or shoveling snow, or... I think it's how we see things as we dispel the noise. I remember How Green was My Valley and loved it... I, too wonder about a re-read...

Friko said...

What you do on a Sunday morning is pure meditation. you really don’t need a special place for it.

It can happen to me when I stand at the window, looking out at a bird or the way the wind creates waves in the tall grass opposite me. Quiet thoughts come and peace settles in my mind. It’s a wonderful way to start the day but it can be an equally good thing to do at any time.

The important thing is to let the quiet take over and engulf the whole of that moment.

I love your early morning meditations, they may not be earth shattering but they always create a sense of companionship with you in me. Thank you.

Rubye Jack said...

This is such a mellow post. I've found that even just five minutes of meditation before going out to join the world can make a huge difference in my attitude.

Anonymous said...

I seem to contemplate quite a bit ever since I stopped babysitting my little grandson. Lots of free time now! Lol.

Rian said...

DJan, I 'think' that if we take the time to nurture these *moments* (contemplation/meditation), they will happen more frequently (planned or unplanned). It's why silence and quiet time is so important in our otherwise hectic lives.

Jackie said...

Looking forward to the longer days and the sunshine...
Love the floral art...and quiet.
Love quiet....

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

That you can stay next to your partner and he does not even complain about you moving about is amazing to me. My hubby is so restless and wakes on any movement. But not I. hecould be the one blogging as I lay there. When I'm asleep I hear nothing now. But years back that wa svery different.
Glad to hear you get peace from your word and thoughts as you write.
I love ikebana.

Sally Wessely said...

Your reflections, contemplations never cease to inspire and enlighten me. Thank you.

Before I even finished the post, I spent money. LOL I had to order the book you just finished before I forgot the title. I watched part of the series and really did enjoy it. Thanks for the recommendation.

As far as "How Green Was My Valley" goes, I must say that it is one of my all time favorite books. I read it about ten years ago. It doesn't seem that long ago, but I think it has been at least that long. Being Welch, and having visited the valley where the miners lived and worked, the valley of my ancestors, I identified greatly with the characters. I should read it again.

Also thanks for the info on the documentary. You've given me a lot to think about today. Thanks!

#1Nana said...

I taped the Midwife series when it was on PBS, but couldn't get in to it. I only watched the first episode. I was one of those babies delivered by a midwife in late 1950 in England, but I was in Harrow, just outside of London. The story of my delivery was often told in our family gatherings...and just last week while going through photos with my father we found a picture of my brother and the the midwife who delivered him. I'd love to see the documentary. There was a bit on 60 Minutes about the director. Thanks for an interesting post and another trip for me down memory lane!

Arkansas Patti said...

Goodness, you have given me many places to go. I definitely will check out "How Green Was My Valley" and will also check my PBS station for "Call the Midwife." Both sound like something I would like.
I agree with Friko, meditation can happen anywhere in any position.
Enjoyed the post.

Red said...

This is a full post...three books, weather and contemplation. I have looked at How Green was my Valley many times but have never read it. I'll put it on my list.
I think as we get older we spend more time in contemplation. we have many more life experiences to draw from and have the time. When we're younger we are too busy.

Linda Myers said...

I ordered Call the Midwife from the library. There's a waiting list, so I should have my copy by the time we get home on March 15.

You say the days are getting longer! Snowbirds will be returning for that!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, the feeling that the essence within us is at One with the very air we breathe and the space in which we sit is a profoundly peaceful one. Like you, I find myself feeling a little guilty because I do not sit each day, lotus-style, and meditate. And yet, there is within the day those moments when I can feel the Oneness. Oh, perhaps not every day, but often enough that I know contentment.

I suspect your hikes/walks on the mountains of Washington is your formal meditation. Nature must speak strongly to you then. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Love Ikebana. Also love (having a senior moment) that art of shaping plants into miniature "landscapes."

You will be happy to know (if you don't already) that the option for season 2 of 'Call the Midwife' has been purchased. Translation..this means more episodes. If you like the Midwife series, check out Born and Bred... about two physicians and the advent of the NHS. I love Jenna Russel who plays Dr. Guidler's wife. Dianne

Far Side of Fifty said...

Everyone finds they inner peace and joy differently..quiet times with the camera does it for me:)

CrazyCris said...

I have tried meditation a few times... but my brain just doesn't seem to want to calm down long enough! I even have trouble falling asleep at night because of that... :o(

Being part of a very close-knit family myself I dread the day when one of us five are no longer there... So much so that I basically refuse to even think about it. My dad's heart surgery last Fall was enough of a scare. :o(

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