Listening to the Universe

I woke at 4 AM unable to sleep so I surrendered to the day and turned the light on. If needed, I could nap later – no need to struggle for more hours of sleep like I might on a work day. Was it worry about money, health or work that kept me from slumber? No, the burning question keeping me lit was how and where should I build a wattle fence. Yes – a wattle fence – a simple, handmade structure created from branches. Mine would not be woven like ones I referenced online at 4 AM. My plan was to sort by size and then simply layer the pruned branches of my fruit trees.

After contemplating different corners of my property, I decided to build it beside the deck in place of a broken step I regularly needed to warn visitors away from. The whole wattling (can it be a verb?) process took less than 2 hours. I yanked out the wooden step, pounded in stakes and stacked the branches. I proudly sent pictures of my crude structure to Molly who said it reminded her of the story of the Three Little Pigs. The wolf would certainly make short work of blowing down my wattle fence but I’d found such pleasure in the creative process. And why go to the dump with those lovely straight branches?

When Molly was home for a short visit in February I recruited her to help me prune our 4 fruit trees. We mercilessly removed branches, some up to 5 feet long. My electric Saker handsaw made the project go quickly. The results were initially shocking. Had I butchered the trees? There were barely any branches left on the peach. It had to be done. In past years, I had not cut these dwarf trees back far enough and they were growing way too tall. So far the pear trees are happily full of blossoms and while the peaches still look traumatized, they are alive, bravely pushing out pink blossoms on the stubby limbs. Ultimately, I know that these harsh cuts were necessary if the trees are to thrive.

And so it is with me. I am working on doing the same in my life. What is necessary to live and thrive in this cycle of my life? These are my questions. I know there is much ‘pruning’ to be done. For a start, I tackle my garden. The to-do list sometimes feels overwhelming but ultimately, if I wake at 4 AM because of what needs to be done outside, it is with excitement. This week I spent some evenings after work clipping at the long hedge, pulling out dead wood from shrubs, yanking out ivy and weeds, picking up fallen twigs for kindling. I’m trying to grow grass again where the pipe was dug up in November so I hauled the hose out of the garage and now have the daily routine of filling the bird bath and spraying the seeded dirt while breathing deeply of the cold morning air. Most mornings, my exhales are no longer visible as it warms into spring.

And remember the branch that fell a few posts back? It’s still there. I need to get a new chain for my electric chain saw – so it’s disappearing a bit into the growing lawn. Nature will take care of things in its own way if I don’t manage to. I try to make sure that the ‘way’ is compatible, that I am doing right by the earth. I am content outside with the birds, the family of squirrels running through the oak and maple branches above me. Breathing fresh air after being in the house all winter, the sun warming my face – this is where I belong.

The universe is speaking to us with earthquakes, eclipses and wild storms. Reminding us that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. We need to pay attention. In the garden, on my knees in the dirt, I listen.

Inspired by an Unseen Eclipse

It’s almost sunrise. I force myself to leave my warm bed on this Sunday when a lie-in is possible. Glancing out the window, the clouds in the East are discouraging but the¬†grays of the dawn sky are taking on a yellow glow and there are hopeful breaks of blues. Hidden behind those clouds, the Sun is about to be eclipsed by the Moon and I’d like to see it.

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There’s not an open view to the East from my house so I think about driving to the beach but instead, I just walk around the neighborhood searching the sky. Shuffling through the leaves in my driveway, I pull my hood up against the damp chill. To my right, the hedge twitters and beeps with Chickadees and Nuthatch and a squirrel scrabbles up the Oak tree. The neighbors are quiet – no leaf blowers, no cars warming up. In the distance, I hear the hum of the highway traffic and sweetly, a church bell tolls from across the river.

As I turn the corner, a drizzle fogs my glasses and the clouds have turned back to dull grey, closing off sky-views behind a dense wall. There will be no views of this morning’s rare solar eclipse, no glimpse here of the Sun with a Moon shadow. Not in my neighborhood. I turn back to the warmth of my house.

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I like to see these unusual celestial events, to gaze up at the sky and think about spinning through space in a universe so much bigger than ourselves. I like these visual triggers to ponder the mystery of existence, to climb out from under the mundane crap cluttering my mind: my desk at work piled with paper, the bills that need paying, the house and yard that needs cleaning. Oh, there are infinite ways I get lost in minutia every day, the lists and worries. But this morning, these things shrink away. My thoughts are in a bigger place: the miraculousness of Earth spinning around the Sun.

I remember that right now, in time and space, my friends in Japan are in their night even as I watch this day’s beginning. With pleasure I think about a dear friend in Tasmania celebrating the warmth of Spring as I ready, reluctantly, for winter. Everywhere around this earth, humans – asleep or awake – experiencing joy, sorrow, birth, death, so fast and endlessly moving yet present, now. Incredible.

I need these reminders of the vastness of the Universe so that my paper-strewn desk, the leaves on the lawn recede, at least for a time, to the appropriate corner of my being. Even as I missed the personal visual, I feel the joy of an expanded consciousness created even by imagining the shadow cast by the Moon over the Sun, behind a bank of clouds.

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