The View from the 24th Floor

I’ve been away from corporate life for two years now, twenty-four months.

In thinking about this lately, I feel that the time and distance has afforded me a different perspective from what I had at the end of my time in corporate life. The difference in the two perspectives reminds me of difference in the two pictures below, taken in Hawaii when the Captain and I were in Waikiki last year.

A picture from the street level, of the beautiful foliage all around:

A picture taken later that evening, from 24 floors straight up in the air and facing in the same direction:

Both sights are lovely, each has really wonderful elements. But there is something incredible about that huge, open view that takes so much more into account.

Perspective. It’s fascinating.

That change in perspective about work has left me rested and ready for something new…. So after a two-years’ break, I am returning to work.

I am returning, but in an entirely different way. Instead of returning to a corporate environment, I am now part of a specialized business in Technical Communications staffing and project management. Instead of running all-out at breakneck speed, I am intentionally keeping my hours low. The plan is to fulfill my brain and contribute the type of work I truly love, while retaining a good amount of space – mental and schedule – so I can still prioritize my family, home, and creative passions.

 As of today, I am about a month into this new endeavor; I am still trying out many options to find the right balance point for everything, but with the perspective I have gained over the past years, as well as the intentional decisions I have already made, I know that the balance point will be found soon.

Contemporary Insanity continues, though perhaps everything here will be seen through a new lens. What will it be like to explore my creative passions in meaningful ways while back at work? Even with (perhaps particularly with) my new non-traditional work approach, where will my creative fulfillment come from? What will it be like to work from a location remote from most of my team? Will I ever find enough time to spin yarn for an entire sweater?

Let’s go forward together and search out the answers to these questions — and many more.

Pushpins

I have a map on my office wall.

It is an old National Geographic map of the British Isles, printed in 1974.

A Traveler’s Map, eh? OK.

I mapped my travels.

These pushpins mark the trip I took around England (with a brief but memorable nip into Scotland) in September 2007. Though it is several years later, and though all my dearest friends will attest that I have a shocking memory, I remember much of this trip with amazing clarity and in detail.

It was one of those things that happen once in a lifetime, shaping who you are and how you are a person. I learned more about myself in that short 12-day trip than I have in any similar time period of my life. It was a time of awakening, realizations, new awarenesses, and an endless experience of Thin Places.

During this year of 2012, I’m planning to write a few posts to remember and celebrate some of the incredible things that happened during that adventure.

One of the first will focus here:

Particularly on the charming town of Ely and a memorable afternoon tea two lovely ladies and I shared at the Peacocks Tearoom.

Want to know more about Thin Places?  More here.

Happy weekend to all!

A New Year

Christmas decorations came down yesterday.  The familiar pictures are back and hanging in their usual places on the walls. After I’d put away the birds and berries and baubles, the house looked clean but felt empty. I did a little, too. So I created this tiny glowing garden to celebrate the new-turned year and to remind myself of the growth, rebirth, and promise of the coming spring.

Pebbles

This page is from a book on Christian monastics, Desert Wisdom, Sayings from the Desert Fathers.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Abba Agathon and his pebble.

This past year has been a particularly quiet year. Working from home, our semi-rural neighborhood, and my enjoyment of solitude have all blended together to result in twelve months  of much less spoken conversation than I’ve experienced in years.

After two decades in noisy workplaces and long days filled with a workday and then volunteering projects many evenings, I’ve welcomed this quiet with wide-open arms. To help preserve this quiet, during the day there is typically no TV, music, or radio. The pups are usually sleeping or outside for a good part of the day. My environment isn’t silent, but it is very free of noise.

This quiet has made room for new types of sounds and awareness.

Particularly, I’ve been listening to the movement of the seasons and of nature. This year, I was highly aware of the changes in the sound our creek makes before and after rainstorms. I listened to the cycle of birds arriving and leaving and arriving again to the trees around our home. I better know the sound the wind makes as it whistles through the tall cedars, and how the maples and beech creak differently than the evergreens.

But even with all this quiet, or maybe because of it, I lately have been very aware of the impact words can have – and how I need to be mindful of what I say.

When I think about Abba Agathon, I wonder if he used his pebble as a tangible reminder of this scripture: My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry (James 1:19, based on several verses from the OT). Every time I read that passage about the Abba, the words from James are what immediately pop into my head.

I know that I can tend to speak before I think about the impact my words might make. I’m sometimes horrified (later) when I think about what I’ve said or implied in an attempt to be funny or to prove my intelligence to someone. I’m guessing that most everyone feels this way sometimes, but what Abba Agathon and his pebble have helped me realize is that I want to do a better job at listening first and speaking slowly, to pay attention to people more and to worry less about what I’m going to say or how I can impress.

This month, while thinking about the Abba and his pebble, I’ve been more aware of the pebbles and stones that are everywhere in our yard. Suddenly, they’ve become more than just rocks to pluck out of my flowerbeds or to rake out of the lawn before I mow for the first time this spring; I find myself paying more attention to the individual stones, sometimes even wondering how it might feel to walk around for an hour, a day, or the Abba’s three years with that particular stone in my mouth.

The man who first built and owned our current home was a geologist. Over the years, we’ve found endless reminders of his profession in small rock-treasures that are all over our property. Geodes and petrified wood are in the flowerbeds. Unusual stones are embedded into the cement foundations of outside staircases. And in the basement, under piles of debris and dust, we found a cracked and brittle plastic tub full of polished pebbles.

It’s a small pile, and seems like any other pile of rocks I polished back in the 70s with my noisy rock-polishing machine.

That is, until I remember to slow down and look just a little more closely. To maybe consider individual pebbles instead of just looking at a box of rocks.

And that’s when something interesting happens:

Maybe it’s not *just* a box of rocks after all. Maybe it’s something more.

Delicate lines and color shifts, and the play of light on endless crystals.

Creamsicle colors and wonder at what massive level of heat and pressure must have existed to fuse such different materials together.

More wonder at how moss or fungus or something more animal in nature could become trapped in stone for uncountable years, for a few people to find and ponder and wonder at millenia later.

Thinking about the quiet intricacy of these pebbles is helping me remember to be quick to listen, and slower to speak out without any awareness of the impact of my words. I hope that when you see pebbles this week, they help you listen in new ways too.

A Traveler from Spare Oom

For much of this Christmas season, I’ve felt that I’ve been in a magical place.

Much of where I am right now, and where I was just before that, is new to me. And how I got there is somewhat befuddling and hard to understand for myself and others. Today, I realized that I feel a bit like Lucy Pevensie  might have when telling Mr. Tumnus about how she got to Narnia: 

Book cover, first edition, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"

Book cover, first edition, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", image from Wikipedia

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tumnus.”

“I am very pleased to meet you, Mr. Tumnus,” said Lucy

“And may I ask, O Lucy, Daughter of Eve,” said Mr. Tumnus, ‘how you have come into Narnia?”

“Narnia? What’s that?” said Lucy

“This is the land of Narnia,” said the Faun, “where we are now; all that lies between the lamp-post and the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea. And you–you have come from the wild woods of the west?”

“I–I got in through the wardrobe in the spare room,” said Lucy.

“Ah!” said Mr. Tumnus in a rather melancholy voice, “if only I had worked harder at geography when I was a little Faun, I should no doubt know all about those strange countries. It is too late now.”


“But they aren’t countries at all,” said Lucy, almost laughing. “It’s only just back there–at least–I’m not sure. It’s summer there.”


“Meanwhile,” said Mr. Tumnus, “it is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long, and we shall both catch cold if we stand here talking in the snow. Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”

 Though it’s all sometimes a little strange, I have to admit that I am a bit jealous about not yet being invited to tea with a Faun. But here I am, in a new-seeming place, filled with wintertime delights and wonderful sights… and sometimes I’m not quite sure how I arrived. Time seems to move at a different pace here than what I knew before.

For example, it is a week before Christmas and all of my Christmas *everything* is taken care of. Cards went out weeks ago. Special things for family living far away have been got, decorated, and sent. The house is filled with twinkling things, good smells, and cheerful sounds. Presents are all bought, wrapped, and hidden away for that special morn.

This is the first year I can remember having so much space before Christmas Day. For the past several years, working full-time, volunteering several hours a week, and trying to do all this as well – well, it was not always cheery, if you get my drift. I felt, year after year, that I was constantly rushing to get things done, everything seemed pushed out to the very last possible minute, things I wanted to do often just didn’t get done (How many years didn’t we send Christmas cards? And how many times, when we did, they were Valentine’s Day cards? More than once, I admit!)

I know in my brain that many of these things are trappings of the holiday perception, but still, they mean much to me and to our family, so they are good and I wanted to do them. But often it seemed that there just wasn’t enough time to get things done. And as far as having space to contemplate what Christmas really means to me, and why we even celebrate this holiday, well, forget it. Maybe there might be a spare hour or two before Christmas Day, but most often it wasn’t until the week after that I had enough brainspace to ponder anything. And when I did, I usually didn’t really want to, because there was a whirlwind of a house to pick up, New Year’s clean-out to accomplish, and much to do to make life manageable when the Captain and I both returned to full-time work in January.

But this year is different, and wonderfully so. I feel that I am coming towards Christmas with an entire Spare Oom of space behind me. This year’s greatest gift has been space and time to approach the season of Advent in a way that is new to me, a way that is filled with slowness and contemplation, awareness and intention. For the first year out of a dozen or so, the planning and giving of the season truly *is* meaning more to me – much more – than the receiving. In fact, I have already been receiving a gift I never anticipated: huge amounts of joy in the preparation for Christmas, and in thinking about those close to me as I write cards or find and prepare giftly expressions of love and friendship.

Fotothek df roe-neg 0000211 003 Mit Schnee bedeckte BäumeNow I am standing by the lamp-post, just like Lucy. A golden glow fills the air, and I ponder many things and invitations. I am not quite sure which way I’ll go next, but in the meantime I am in the moment, filled with wonderful excitement, joy, and anticipation. And with that time, and with that space, I am going to celebrate anew the ‘waiting in wonderment’ that comes with Christmas and the holy remembering of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Yep. It’s a pretty wonderful gift, wouldn’t you say?

Beauty in the Ordinary

I’ve been away from my previous traditional career for six months now, and I have loved every single minute. It’s hard for me to find words to describe the joy I feel these days, as well as the freedom and lightness of soul that has continued to grow within me as I’ve shed many of the habits and ways of being that I used to practice when I was working at a corporation.

One of the things that has been a significant part of this joy and growth and peace has been making time to find and see beauty in very ordinary things. I have been stunned many times during the past half-year by how truly beautiful the simplest things can be: a bit of brilliantly emerald moss, sunshine making a flower glow, the intricate detail of a fungus, the aggregate that was ground by a glacier into granite, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee early on a crispy-cold and sunny morning, the glint of soft evening light off puppy fur. These things hold so much for me, and I have been filled with happiness to find that my appreciation of them has only grown as I’ve had more time to enjoy and experience them. The fact that I am able to experience these things in this way feels like an incredible gift of presence and grace to me.

Today I was revisiting some pictures we took during a trip to the Carribean last winter, and it felt good to remember the beauty we saw there. The sun and salt and sea and wind work their way into everything on this little island, nothing really escapes them. But the results are breathtaking.

 

 Where have you been finding unexpected beauty in ordinary things?

Monastic Wisdom #2

Abba Or said,

“Either flee from people,
or laugh at the world and the people in it,
and make a fool of yourself in many things.”

 

 

 

Picture: Taken from the causeway between the mainland and Holy Island (Lindisfarne, England) – Pilgrim Poles leave the road for faithful to follow at low tide to reach the place of pilgrimage.