Yesterday, on Independence day, I was not in a mood to celebrate. This is unusual for me, as I believe that what we put our attention to gets created and sustained. Therefore, for the most part, I take part in celebration of and in dancing with joy for the freedoms I possess, because I want to see more opportunities to celebrate in my future and our children’s future.
Yet recent challenges to those freedoms being on public display—and there have been plenty—plus witnessing acts of greed and fear in the lives of people I love and in my life, rendered me in a mood of Independence Day “Bah humbug!”
So instead of combing my closet for a bright and cheery yellow shirt, along with bright sneakers to wear so I could dance alongside the Happiness Float at our hometown parade, I retreated and stayed home. I took a walk in the forest with my housemate. I cleaned the kitchen and washed dishes. I meditated. And honestly, I sulked. For most of a 4th of July, I couldn’t snap out of the funk. Therefore, every challenge in every corner of my life seemed to loom larger, and had more heft than ever.
Law of Attention at its finest. It was hard to pull up and out and be in gratitude for what I and others DO have, when what was lacking or challenged held my attention.
A break in this somber action came by way of the second walk of the day. I knew I needed to clear my aura of this crush of negativity, so I texted a friend to join me on a walk. The friend listened carefully as I vented a few woes and concerns, and then we both walked in the wonder our local forests deserve: There was so much to admire with either words or silent nods. I came back fairly lifted. Not quite out of the woods enough (ha!) to want to celebrate. But the world didn’t seem quite as bleak, and my eyes met more wonder than woe.
I forced myself to drive down to the second half of a musical celebration on the waterfront. The place was packed with families and people eating ice cream and kids throwing rocks into the water. I wandered to the dock to watch a tugboat push the fireworks barge into place, with the Cascade mountains and an oil refinery as backdrop. I watched as rock musicians of a certain age (ahem, my age) set up for their show. And for reasons illusive to me, I felt better. Humans were enjoying themselves.
Of course I danced to the old rock standards everyone could sing along to. I danced with a preschool aged girl, dark curls bouncing, her hands clapping in time with the music, mom encouraging her: “Go go, honey!” I admit it felt slightly surreal, as if I was but a phantom witness to this scene. But I wasn’t a phantom. I was a fellow dancing and feeling human.
When I came home, and before watching the fireworks from our house deck, I was looking at pictures in my phone to use in future blogs when I came upon this one: a red finch peeking out of a the bird’s nest in a saguaro cactus. This is not a local scene, of course—it was a pic I took of the July photo on a calendar at work. I must have been in a minor funk then as well, since I found it a sweet reminder of life peeking out of the thorns. This is where I am today. Peeking out of the prominent thorns of human greed and fear, as well as the sad refrains of war and pollution and destruction. Peeking out of the thornier parts of my own life. Peeking out, yet not being stuck by or in the thorns.
I’m smiling right now, and I send that smile of recognition your way. I know it's hard for most of you to be witness to the painful thorns we must face, now or later. Yet, from my current perspective of gratitude for my fellow messy and complex, yet completely fascinating humans, I see a lot of good out there.