“One has to be in the same place every day, watch the dawn from the same house, hear the same birds awake each morning, to realize how inexhaustibly rich and different is sameness.” Taoist Philosopher Chuang TZU
A sage reminder and words of hope in the midst of a global pandemic. As I contemplate these verses, I reflect on my morning routine of waking and climbing the ladder to our cupola for a few yoga stretches, journal writing and meditation. The ladder is called a monk’s ladder as it is created in the style of each step, left and right, being at a different level. The cupola sits at the top of our geodesic dome home and in this way, I am sitting on the roof of our house in an enclosed space with windows in all directions. This daily journey to the top brings me comfort in its sameness and grounds me in this new day.
Through this circle of windows, I look east across the ravine out our front door to the rising sun. I look south to the stately elder birch tree and to the road winding out to eventually meet Hwy 65. I look west to the last remaining oak tree clumps holding a squirrel nest, then let my gaze move beyond our neighbors’ home and back yard to the bank of trees on the other side of the Rum River and to where the setting sun will appear later in the day. Finally, I move to the north with a meandering look following the banks of the river while watching for the eagles who like to fly down to our house and either circle our home or continue on down the river.
The windows, the sunrise, the sunset, and the river are present every day when I arrive with each day totally new in its sameness; the sunrise and then sunset show themselves in their daily dependability but different in their reds, yellows, oranges and maybe a hint of lavender or a simple greyness; the air is moving or calm or whipping and whistling; the earth is green or brown or white with snow or covered in deer tracks or filled with dandelions, lilacs, and hydrangeas; the river is full and flowing fast or shallow and slow with the contours shifting just a bit with the level of the water. My pen moves on paper and new words arise each day with varying emotions, thoughts, reflections and gratitude’s. In meditation the breath I rely on might feel slow or rapid as I settle in and my thoughts might act like monkeys flying from limb to limb or resting like a floating lily pad.
I look out of the same window and can tell the time of year by the slant of the sun and how it reflects on the trees beyond the river. I can see how the wind will alter this day and what it might do to the temperature. I can see what damage the deer have wreaked in the garden and reflect on the changes this brings to all the work we have put forth. I observe the cardinal pairs with ever surprising awe as they show in their jaunty coats, striking against the new snow on the hardy spruce.
We did not realize a year ago that sameness is what that year and this new year would bring to us, day after day, and that this experience of sameness could bring us such riches. The day to day ordinary is not always what we want to live in as some days bring forth so much struggle within us to stay grounded and aware that we would rather be able to jump in the car and make a run for it. It is a comfort to know that this experience of my world is available to me if I make myself available to it. If I pause and look. If I breathe and open my eyes.
Challenging doesn’t come close to describing the pain of these times for so many in our communities and in our world, testing us to the depths of our resilience. I and many have the luxury of staying home and waiting in place but that has its own struggles as well as it challenges our emotions, our psychological reserves, our social needs. Rather than being bored by the smallness of our lives while sheltering in our homes far longer than ever imagined, we can begin to explore our environment like reading a favorite book for the second or third time, different with each reading, finding something I had not understood or felt in the same way, allowing it to surprise me, challenge me, and open me to what I need to see or to learn. We might then, within our own story, find a new way of seeing something as if for the first time. A new perception, awareness, or insight into this one life I am living. This is my life. It looks different and it feels different and it has taken quiet and slow living to see it, but I am alive and breathing and filled with the richness of this moment. All so familiar, abundant and alive.