Driving up the canyon with my husband to go climbing the other day, my attention fell upon a sign I had never seen before; something to the effect of “Dogs are not permitted in Little Cottonwood Canyon.” The sign looked rather bright and shiny to me in the late afternoon light. I asked my husband if that was a new sign. He chuckled and said that sign had been there since he had been going up the canyon — since the 70’s. I smiled to myself, managing the internal ‘whhhooooaaaa’ happening inside me. I’ve gone up and down that canyon my whole life and don’t think I’ve ever seen that sign.
When we reached our destination, we set our packs at the base of the wall, geared up, and started climbing. After an hour or so, on the fourth time I’d gotten something in or out of my pack, my attention fell on a small patch of green, growing on the rock wall to my right. It was a mass of tiny dark green leaves in the perfect shape of a heart, about the size of my open hand. After passing right by it numerous times, it decided to jump out at me, clear as day. I smiled to myself, receiving the message of love it was sending — and had been sending the whole time.
* * * *
A few hours earlier, just before we left the house, I had been taking a small earring out of my ear and it flipped out of my fingers. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it hit the sink and I heard a ‘clink.’ “Damn” I thought, “It’s gone down the drain.” Not having the time to deal with it, I tossed a cloth into the sink to remind me not to run the water.
Later that evening, I got down to undoing the pipes under the sink (easy PVC pipes with screw joints, thankfully). No earring to be found! Did it get caught in the drain plug mechanism? I poked around. No luck.
I sat down in front of the disassembled sink pipes, despondent. That was a favorite earring. I couldn’t lose it! Then my attention fell on the floor to my left where the bathroom tile met the bedroom carpet. Standing with post down was the little silver and yellow-turquoise earring, as if had been waiting for me all day. I could not understand how it managed to not go down the drain; the physics didn’t seem right. I picked it up with a smile and a wordless prayer of gratitude.
* * * * *
How much reality we cannot see! It is remarkable to me that the older I get and the more I learn, the smaller the reach of my perception seems to get. I used to know how the world worked. But now, I’m far more aware of the mind-boggling variety of form and process and experience that is going on at every second on every square inch of this planet — never mind beyond this planet. It turns my mind to jelly to imagine it.
There’s something else that many of us don’t see, except in special circumstances, and many of us have lost touch with completely . . .
* * * * *
A few days ago, I took a Sunday afternoon to drive to a conservation area in the mountains where I’ve taken people on Medicine Walks for the last five years or so. It’s a place I’ve come to know well. But I’d not been there in several months. Having taken on a yearlong training in a new area of practice, I’d opted to not offer Medicine Walks for the spring and summer, and instead had been immersed in reading, thinking, homework and deadlines for weeks and weeks.
I wrestled the time out of what my mind kept telling me was a busy schedule because I was feeling very much out of gas. Bereft. Small. Exhausted.
Arriving at the trailhead, I locked the car, shouldered my light pack, crossed the busy road and started up the familiar trail.
About ten minutes up, I reached the the big old aspen grove. As I looked up, the whole huge grove of trees burst out in joyful welcome. I felt a massive wave of love wash over me. It was powerful love, visceral, vibrating through my entire body. All the smallness and concern and worries I’d carried up from the city spontaneously evaporated.
I continued walking up the trail in the company of trees and grass and sky and flowers, and such palpable, unconditional love!
* * * * *
For the next five hours, I sat in the company of a huge pine that smelled so good and whose massive roots burrowed down underneath my sitting spot. I made my home and sat and watched the leaves and bugs and clouds; and napped. I gave gratitude, gratitude, gratitude with my heart spilling open — at the same time it was burning with grief for this crazy human condition of being both god and animal, both infinite and mortal, both vast and small.
I’d forgotten just how deeply I am loved by the world. How much we ALL are loved by the world. I’d forgotten the power of that love. I’d forgotten that this love expands me into my infinite self, as naturally as the sun rises over the mountains every morning. From my house, I see the sun rising, but the sun doesn’t rise. It’s always there. It's only that I can’t see it from my perspective on planet earth, as she rotates ‘round.
We are always forgetting and remembering, circling around from our smallness to our bigness and back again. Though when we remember we’ve forgotten, we can make a space for ourselves — we can allow our attention to naturally fall on the support and love and power that is already always there.