Coming Back

For me it happens when my attention is directed outward for too long, when my first instinct upon waking is to reach for my phone to read news or email. When I concentrate solely on events and people outside of myself, I forget to take my vitamins and drink enough water. The morning becomes rushed. My imagination shrinks. I have only a vague idea of how I feel.

I forget that I love spacious and silent mornings, drinking my coffee at the dining room table after my daughter has left for school. And how—when I step away from electronic distractions—I’m aware of the sun rising over the mountain, shining through my window, warming my back. I remember that in the early morning, ideas and discoveries come easily to me.

My blog partner Kelly is especially good at keeping spacious mornings. An idea came to her recently, to create a painting that she would send to a community garden she admired. The executive director, after receiving it, called to ask if Kelly could design a t-shirt for the garden. They met, and Kelly will soon volunteer her time and talents in other ways for them too. Her instinct, to create and send a painting, opened a door to working with an organization that she truly believes in. The idea came straight from her heart.

Tend the Garden
by Kelly Henderson

The word courage comes from the French coeur, which means heart. In the words of the poet David Whyte, “To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.”

If you don’t know David Whyte’s poetry, and if you have two and a half minutes, listen to him read “Stay Close In.” Whyte often repeats lines when he reads, making the poem a kind of spoken meditation. Enjoy!

Dark Skies

The season of Advent—literally “arrival”—is upon us. In the Christian tradition, this is a time of darkness, expectation, and waiting.

We don’t hear much about Advent from advertisers. It’s easier to jump straight to the celebration.

Let’s just arrive.

I get it. Waiting seems almost impossible given the reality of 2017: political upheaval, mass shootings, natural disasters, environmental degradation, nuclear arsenals.

On good days, I try to remember that 2017 has spurred more civic action than I’ve seen in my lifetime. Newspapers have been resurrected. Women’s voices are being heard in a new way.

But, my hope for our country has seen better days. I’m tired of waiting for a course correction. Everyone I know is just as tired.

And still, Advent invites a childlike willingness to wait with open arms for a better reality than the one we occupy now.

One Advent, when my daughter was six years old, she began coloring bright yellow stars in dark skies. Gone were ballerinas, princesses, and family portraits. She was preoccupied with stars. I sensed her wonder as she handed me her creations, the dark night illumined by far away light.

That memory makes me want to ditch my 2017 dread and replace it with a dose of wonder. I’ve begun stepping outside after dark to witness the night sky. I want more silence. I want to listen more than speak, and observe more than act. I want to count my blessings and be kind to myself.

Author Wayne Mueller says, “The human spirit is naturally generous; the instant we are filled, our first impulse is to be useful, to be kind, to give something away.”

In this spirit, during Advent and the inaugural month of our new blog, we’re going to post about simple kindnesses for the self. We invite your thoughts and ideas, and when 2018 dawns, we’ll widen our discussion of kindness—we hope—with a renewed sense of purpose.

We’re curious: how do you show yourself kindness?