April 1: “What did you do today?” “We listened to a raisin.”
My friend Eileen and I spent a day at the Bon Secours Retreat Center practicing mindfulness. Our teacher invited each of us to ponder a raisin with a curious, beginner’s mind and to explore it with all of our senses.
During three timeless minutes, I saw the raisin’s ridges and chestnut accents. I felt its textures and malleability. I smelled its gentle sweetness and heard its adamant quiet (although it emitted a tiny gasp when I squeezed it). And, biting down once, I tasted a trickle of juice; a second and third bite produced more intense flavor. I swallowed my raisin with gratitude and a little regret after three minutes in its company. For during that time, my mind cleared, my jaw relaxed and my heart rate slowed.
Our teacher read to us from a Jewish Sabbath prayer, which observed that “we walk sightless among miracles.” I have four more raisins in a little bag in my purse, awaiting a time when I will choose to slow down and experience this tiny miracle again. Or maybe I’ll keep them as a talisman to remind me to find the wonder in other tiny overlooked things.
April 2: The long, long line at Rare Bird Coffee Roasters wasn’t long enough; I was reading Louise Erdrich’s new novel “The Sentence” and welcomed the extra quiet time. Eventually my book and I landed at a seat by the window, where I took mindful bites of my bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and waved to the lady from the Pho restaurant next door.
Mostly, though, I delighted in my teapot of Anxi tea and matching cup resting on a rimmed wood tray. Over the past few months, the coffee shop had moved from pandemic-paper to ceramic mugs all the way to proper teapots. The barista told me the cups and pots had been in storage for almost a decade, and the time seemed right to bring them out again. The glaze was a tiny bit scuffed and crackled; the wood was smooth and faded from use; the cup warmed my hands; and the tea leaves released a forest-after-the-rain scent. All my senses were engaged.
Little raisin, I salute you.
April 3: I am a pokey, pokey email correspondent. Perhaps part of me sits placidly in the 20th century when to-and-from letter communications took up to a week. (I almost wrote of the 19th century, but novels tell me that places like London enjoyed mail delivery twice a day and telegrams in between; too frenetic a pace for me!)
The price of delinquency, for me, is guilt and (eventually) overwhelm. The virtue of my delinquency is opening the floodgates on love. And here I speak to you, dear Commenters on this blog.
Each Thursday I throw feathers into the breeze; some may drift away, others might prompt wonder, still others might tickle one’s nose. And a few days later, some of you write to tell me so. I am more grateful to you than I can say. I truly feel like I have new friends around the world: in New Zealand, Singapore, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Maine, in addition to you, dear friends, whom I’ve known for years.
I am blessed by such a kind and giving community. I believe that every comment you post is a thread of connection and an affirmation that I matter; every comment that I write on your blogs is an affirmation that you matter, that your creativity, love of life, wisdom and joy matter to me and to the world.
I am definitely not fishing for more comments or “likes”! I know, dear friends, that you’re there. Please know how much you mean to me.
April 4: Somehow I managed to make all the wrong turns on my drive back from the elementary school where I taught “my” fifth-grade class. My woes were compounded by traffic lights, crossing guards, even a school bus releasing a dozen children within shouting distance of my house.
I was tired, and suddenly delighted: Skipping out of the school bus, gripping her iconic stuffed red octopus, and wearing her customary smile was the “Mayor” of the class I’d just taught. From the very beginning, she made sure I knew the students’ names and the classroom customs; she helped me with dismissals and transitions; and on behalf of the class bravely asked for five more minutes of recess. (One time I said yes, but today I said no.)
I rolled down the window of my car. “Excuse me, young lady. Did you have a substitute teacher today?” She turned toward me and shouted, “Mrs. Ogle!”
Apparently, my young lady lives right up the street from me. She knows my house and the swing-set on the side yard. She knows my son Jeremiah. And now she knows me.
I think back on all those pandemic-telework days when I watched school children play in my front yard. I think I’ve watched her at 8, 9 and 10 years of age. And I think she was the subject of at least one Delight during those days when my window was my world. Now she delights me again.
April 5: I nibbled the last bits of breakfast and reached for my phone. I’d been reading an article about Scott Joplin and wanted to hear his Maple Leaf Rag. I found the song . . . and a text message from the elementary school principal: can you substitute right now for our Spanish teacher? And, by the way, you don’t need to know Spanish.
Um, I guess so. So I scrambled to pack my lunch and dash out the door, right into the enthusiastic arms of ten-year olds who knew Spanish far better than I did. But that’s ok: they have computer-based lessons, right? Nope: they’d completed those already, which meant I had five classes during which I had no choice but to:
- teach them a little Latin (“ubi, oh, ubi est mea sub-ubi?” (Hint: “ubi” means “where”);
- teach them a little Italian (which suddenly came flooding back);
- invite them to tell me about the family tree of Romance languages;
- beg them to teach me how to say “My name is Señora Ogle” and count to 15;
- dispatch singing groups to the hallway to practice and then dance when they serenaded me;
And finally, in the time-honored tradition of substitute teachers everywhere, cue up the movie “Coco” and recover in time for the next grupo de niñas marvillosas.
April 6: Jeremiah announced a new Opening Day ritual: to buy 2 or 3 packs of fresh baseball cards. He doesn’t plan to start a traditional collection or to search for rarities. Instead, he’s celebrating the day with a nod to history, which shimmers around baseball like peanut dust, beer foam and mustard. I imagine Jeremiah sustaining the tradition for seventy years — with each Opening Day recalling heroes from years past and predicting the newest stars. I salute you, Jeremiah. Let’s Play Ball!
April 7: Today I attended yoga class for the first time in a month, and I hurried to get there. I glanced at the early tulips poking through the pansies but did not stop to look. I listened to the rain teasing the puddles, but didn’t smile. I inhaled only as much as necessary to power my legs to the studio.
And then our teacher brought us to profound and nourishing stillness. We held our warriors until we could both stretch and rest. We bent and twisted with attention to ease. And best of all, we folded onto ourselves again and again, to go inside and tap into quietude.
I’m slowly walking home now in the drizzle along the creek, where the birds call to each other and the trees stretch and rest. My breathing is deep and centering. I feel a new kind of power, because I am quiet and still at last.
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