A Master Key to Contentment

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Seeking serenity is a way of life for me, a nourishment I cannot live well without. It may have been intensified by troublesome times as a child and young adult but it has nonetheless been a natural impulse as long as I can remember. In any case, it is a powerful key to a kind of magic guidebook for living richly. Why wouldn’t I use it all the time?

It’s being attentive to the harmony that is coexistent with discordance, locating symmetry that hides inside the apparently off-kilter. My belief is that there is order in the messy jumble of life, and renewed creation stirring in the design of every universal interaction. Like pebbles tossed into water, nature’s actions and reactions are a demonstration of exquisite unity and symbiosis. And in human connections–slight as a fast second on the street or ongoing as a long partnership–there are various manifestations of energy exchanged, networks of coexistence revealed.

It is often a sudden point of acute awareness that brings me a sense of serenity. I recognize myself in others’ humanness. I see my place, another soul passing through the byways of human life, a series of trudges and leaps through a breathtaking if also spoiled paradise we share. There are lessons everywhere, light that seeps through the sieve of our often deliberate blindness. But I want to know what is there; I want to reap the rewards of paying attention. The weeping as well as the laughing. The sheer authenticity of life rewards me with a deeper peace in the end.

It’s hard to be disappointed as serenity reveals itself in transitory events or ancient, sweeping vistas. It was in tiny drops of light among azalea bushes as I walked this morning. Released from Samuel Barber’s heartrending “Adagio for Strings” for at least the hundredth time yesterday. My city balcony brings me deeper inside the majestic dark, where I am reassured the North Star and Big and Little Dippers yet demonstrate a purposeful design well placed in a vast cosmos. But even cutting up a nectarine or tomato elicits a smile–the very idea of seeds! The purity of fruit fleshiness. And such tart sweetness savored.

There are other paths to experiencing serenity, of course. For me, engaging in a variety of creative projects fills a predominant need. Spending time in prayer and meditation is essential. Spontaneous dancing frees a joyous tranquility. Whistling (I’m an inveterate whistler) favored tunes–classical or pop or jazz or my own–does, too. Reading brings mental relief as well as stimulation, both kinds of peace. Sitting and talking with loved ones–or chatting with a cashier. Attending a symphony concert, visiting art galleries. Ice skating and hiking. Chopping zucchini for a succulent green salad.

There are endless choices for participating and observing that bring me to that fine, still point of serenity. I prefer to let go of cares I still pick up–as if my carrying their cumbersome weight will solve the problems when in fact, I more often tire and stumble. So I back off, give space to thought and feeling, fling wide the knotty nets of perseveration and emotions. Just be more empty and then open in that way a rippling span of a wild meadow is: all life working together, with time enough for work and rest. I am welcoming of gifts that arrive from everywhere.

It’s a numinous life we are born with and into, and its mystical ways seem to me at once ordinary and exotic. All we have to do is turn around to see evidence of a stupendous wisdom. Deep beauty. Even when there is tragedy to throw us off. Even when there is rancorous pain that wars with a need for kind relief. I think of the juxtaposition often, perhaps because I was a counselor so long and know the price people pay as they thrash about looking for peace, longing for a life to cherish and feel cherished by. But also because I have been acquainted with difficulties. When seeking serenity amid the waste of disregard or rougher antics of living, we can bound toward the healing touch of wonder to rescue ourselves again. Find the inherent peace that is there, waiting. Just listen, watch. Be patient. I trust it to reveal itself, open like a tender, stalwart flower in the midst of the odd wilderness of humaness.

Love, the most basic human compassion and appreciation, is part of this peace. It seems love attracts more tranquility. A charitable act is enough on its own but may bring a return of the same. A smile elicits another smile or a jaunty nod. But who it mostly transforms, I think, is ourselves. When I view life from a place of acceptance and care, I see more clearly, as if mind and heart develop magnified views. Then comes more clarity. Just as the imperfections of a hand thrown ceramic vase provide unique qualities, so do our quirks and defects. We’re made of marvelous whole cloth as humans; that cloth is rendered durable if perhaps a bit spotty by the mysteries of DNA. And gradually life leaves marks within, and those we leave upon it and others. But we are working our way down the road and its byways with help from the powers of physics and presence of many people, some we don’t ever truly know. And, for me, God and heavenly guardians.

A key to my ability to rebound and regroup, to stay in the present while also moving forward is this innate need for peace and tranquility. The life we lead requires it. It is sustenance, regenerates body and refills soul. I sit at my computer desk and hear the sonorous tones of chimes one of my daughters gave me a decade ago. And robins and crows among others. Earlier I listened to cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s album “Obrigado Brazil”. He’s a musician, a cellist I have long adored not only because of his extraordinary talent. He harbors grace that seems to vibrate, and an enthusiasm for not only a large variety of music but for life. He transmutes his experiences of harmony and delight into the miracle sound.

The months of April and May are not lately my most favored. I do enjoy the lessening of the cold rains and the profusion of flowers that take over all but it is also a time of sad remembrance. My oldest sister died right before my own birthday (one year ago) and my mother passed and was buried on Mother’s Day (fifteen years now). I miss them, still, though the ache is not overwhelming. And this year, my husband became acutely ill and was hospitalized. So I seek more serenity as it is needed. Sadness can be a beacon if you become fully open to it, for beyond the tears flow more love and gratitude.

I began this post thinking I would share only a few pictures along with a line here and there. Oh dear, words carried me along their willful current, as ever. But now to share a few places or moments I have found inspiration and the treasured balm of serenity. I hope you also will be moved to seek more each day. Don’t put it off; the Grand Mystery of Everything awaits you!

Taken at a favorite cottage and beach on the Pacific Ocean:

Yachats 66th BDay 341Yachats 66th BDay 275

M., my husband, recently survived multiple blood clots in both lungs. This peaceful though short vacation was a good healing time.

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Yachats BDay trip, Irv. walk 137 Yachats 66th BDay 542

M. rock hunting, guaranteed to bring serenity. Me, breathing salt sea air, mesmerized.

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This is a city park where I power walk and also enjoy the pond with ducks and a heron, towering trees, flowering bushes, people relaxing and exercising.

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I  find peace and delight at the farmer’s market on the week-end.

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The forest saves me. I often hike in woods within our city and elsewhere and last time watched a barred owl for several moments!

Random pictures of gardens and me 048I have a thing for trees! They shelter all, give us oxygen, beauty.

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Tillamook Forest and Hwy 101 7-24-10 006

One of the best paces in the Northwest: Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge In Washington. We love the Cascade mountains, glimpses of Columbia Gorge, open meadows, marshes, birds.

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I look forward to any ferry ride, especially when heading out from northwestern WA. for Vancouver Island, BC. Serenity, every time.

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Victoria Trip 7-12 427Just a glimpse of beautiful Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island.

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Easy: simple fun creates contentment along the lively waterfront in Victoria.

I also seek out Portland’s Japanese Garden frequently. It was the place I needed to be following 9/11, and go when I want to be filled with beauty, yet also emptied.

A fine place to go for countless infusions of serenity.

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But I love walking in my own historic neighborhood; it provides me with ample doses of happy surprises and peace–and an abundance of flowers, without which life would be much less joyful.

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Walking in light 011 Walking in light 015 Walking in light 021

Serenity waits. Go find the magic. Fill up; share the abundance.

(Please note: All photographs are mine. Please share but attribute to me. If you’d enjoy seeing more visual posts let me know.)

22 thoughts on “A Master Key to Contentment

  1. I’m new to this site & chose to follow you, as I felt very drawn to a post of yours…this selection feels like such a connection to where my heart is. Your writing is a soothing balm & resonates on many levels~~you are so gifted & I’m thrilled to have come across your blog. I also find your photos to be exquisite.
    I’m looking forward to further connections. Thank you for your heartfelt sharing💜

    1. I’m happy you liked the post and found it “syncs” with you! I appreciate your good words sent my way…and gratified that you are following the blog. Yes, I enjoy photography, as well, snapping what draws me without real technical skill. Writing is my deeper passion–or, at least, the lifelong labor that I am welded to and gladly. Kind regards.

  2. Cynthia, Loved this post. A few years ago I read “The Power of Now” and it helps keep things in perspective. I try to reread it yearly. You are an amazing photographer also. Looking forward to continued reading of your blog.

    1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it and glad you told me so. Yes, being in the moment can really be a challenge but crucial, I feel, to gratitude and experiencing being deeply attuned to the prism of life. I’m glad you practice this! That you enjoyed my photos is a real bonus– thank you. I may share more form time to time–usually I just write memoir/essays on Wed. and short stories on Mondays. (I also have a poetry and a photography blog that are linked, if you are interested.) Welcome!

  3. Hanging above my desk is the following quote: “We need to remember that every significant change is usually preceded by chaos. It is an intense energy that destroys the configurations of the past and opens a space for the new to be born. This too, is natural. When we surrender to the chaotic dissolution, we can be centered and safe in the middle of the tornado, waiting for it to pass. There is peace here.” Carolyn Conger
    After reading your post during lunch, my eyes were drawn to that ragged piece of paper along with the thought, “yep. I get what she’s saying.” 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and beautiful pictures.
    Although I do NOT have any spare time – family/work/work/family – I just recently dove into writing my own blog where I can post pictures and write down my ramblings – mostly on the weekends after walking The Dawg. Is it for anyone else’s enjoyment, approbation, approval? Not really. It seems to center me [an old Quaker term and coincidentally, I’m an “older” Quaker] and helps me seek that serenity you speak of. Although I don’t have time, I feel I can’t afford not to take the time to “download” my thoughts.

    1. I appreciate your quote–succinct and seems so true– and further comments. I certainly understand not having “spare time” (funny term–is any time we have ‘spare’?), having raised 5 children and working out of the home, as well, until a short time ago! But putting thoughts to paper, as it were, is always helpful–and if you are a writer as am I, it feels essential to a whole life. Best wishes on your new endeavor and your search for serenity!

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