(From Within My Illusions &
Artwise Poetry Roulette Cards)
Underneath the heavy weight of fear, The shoulds, The coulds, A path that seems unclear,
Beneath the snow-white Winter of my mind, Where flowers droop and Petals wilt in space confined,
A steady chant has quietly begun: Feed me. Water me. Point me toward the sun..
Last month when I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, I had a set of Artwise Poetry Roulette Cards with me as I often do so I can offer poems to people I encounter throughout my journey. A woman at a shop in the Atlanta airport chose the card with this poem on it. She smiled as she read the poem, then said, "This is the perfect poem for me right now."
"What about it?" I wondered.
"I'm really focused on nourishing myself so that I can... Blossom!"
Lately, I've being thinking about the concept of flourishing, so this poem and exchange felt resonant. I'm reminded that flourishing doesn't happening by focusing on the outcome, but by creating the conditions for said flourishing to occur. Plants flourish through care and tending to the soil, the atmosphere, the environment. The resulting garden is the outward expression of that nourishment, or lack thereof.
I've been asking myself: What are the conditions of my garden? How do I tend to the soil of my body and being, the atmosphere of my relationships, the environment in which I live and grow? And how can I adapt to changing conditions around me?
I was starting to get caught up in all the seriousness involved in the work of nourishing when I read a post by writer Austin Kleon about one of his journaling practices. After describing his process, he said, "I am not necessarily suggesting that this would help anybody else. It’s a pastime to pass the time. Something I do to amuse myself. I don’t think we talk enough about amusement as a worthy enough reason to do things."
The word amusement gave me pause. There is a part of me that can become so focused on discipline and commitment—the work of garden tending. I forget that play and whimsy are equally valuable. It dawned on me that amusement, the seemingly frivolous activities that often feel like wasting time, could be as essential to my flourishing as the disciplined practices I'm committed to. That things like doing puzzles, pausing on a walk to laugh at my dogs' frolicking, going out of my way to take picture of hidden rainbows I encounter, and singing for no reason other than that it feels good are as essential as food and water. That just as plants "eat" light, pointing ourselves in the direction of delight feeds us in very important ways.
On a walk to a class one afternoon this week, I noticed that the redbud trees had started blooming. Their electric violet blossoms have become my favorite sign of spring in Texas. I approached one particular tree, and as I did, I realized that dozens of bees were buzzing around and through the branches. I stood underneath the canopy and listened. I looked more closely and noticed that the bees seemed to hug the petals as they feasted.
I lingered for a while. Wasting time, perhaps. Amused, for sure. Smiling as I continued on my way.
As the season turns toward spring in the northern hemisphere, I'm intending to savor that which brings me amusement, which is perhaps another way of saying that I'm inviting my muses to play. After all, the word itself in one sense can mean "a state of being with the muse."
What brings you amusement? How do you turn towards that which amuses you? Think of it as fertilizer for the soil, which is to say, food for the soul.