Those of you who took my challenge to interweave your year with gratitude may have noticed I’m a month behind in giving an update from Angeles Arrien’s book Living in Gratitude. Even if you’re not reading the book, I think it’s good to be reminded of how life-transforming a regular practice of gratitude can be.
In the June chapter, Arrien writes of the power of equanimity. These weeks mark the middle point of the year, which is a natural time to do a course correction if we’ve wandered off track. That’s why vacations–another feature of midsummer–can be so important. By vacating our lives for a time, we gain perspective and renew our creativity. Arrien quotes Lao-tsu to illustrate the attitude we would do well to cultivate:
If you look to others for fulfillment
you will never be truly fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize nothing is lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
In thinking about these matters, I find myself recalling recent visits with two friends who are avid gardeners. Both spoke of how gardening takes them outside of themselves, shifting the focus to something other than their own concerns and cares. There’s always more to do, and yet there’s something liberating in that realization, because since you can’t get it all done anyway, you may as well enjoy the process along the way. “Gardening is good for the soul,” Brian said (and I suspect that as a geologist, he’s not one normally given to theological speculations).
I’m including several photos from another friend with a wondrous garden. Bill’s backyard, set amid deep woods, opens into a glorious panorama of daylilies. Bill doesn’t just grow the flowers, but also breeds and hybridizes them, constantly tinkering and tweeking and experimenting to find new varieties. When I asked him why he chose to concentrate on daylilies, he said that no other flower provides such a riotous splash of color. As an artist, Bill has made his garden into another palette for his creativity.
This last picture was done with the “water color” setting on my camera. That’s perhaps cheating a bit, but somehow it conveys the feel of Bill’s garden more than a conventional shot. It’s a place to be content, savoring life just as it is.