Posted by: MC | December 10, 2010


Walking south on NE 28th Ave. under my new umbrella (the other one blew out in yesterday’s storm), I came to the corner at Flanders St.  A man in full raingear – the heavy orange plastic stuff – stood on tiptoes behind an enormous canvass sign.  The sign was as orange as the man.  Although a square, it was situated as a diamond to warn oncoming traffic of the roadwork ahead.

The man’s reach had made it so that one of two orange flags on flip-up metal extenders was pointed purposefully skyward.  He was wrestling with the second flag as I stepped to the curb.  A woman on a bike in a blue rain jacket and a silver helmet – 20-something would be my guess – slowed to our left.  She looked left to gauge the traffic and lifted her left foot from the asphalt to make a right turn.

I stepped off the curb to cross the street as she passed.  Mid intersection, I thought I heard crickets but didn’t think to look until I got it.  These sounds were the small songs of small brown birds in the thin branches of a wintering tree.

So what, huh?

So what – this rain, this man, this woman, these cricket sounds lifting into the morning from tiny birds in a tiny tree?  It was only an intersection.

A few days ago my friend Celeste said, “I’ve found a new prayer.”  She went on, “I say ‘Thanks for this moment.  I love that it is here.  And I know it will never come again in exactly this way.’”

Celeste has been on disability most of her life for profound difficulty with mental illness.  She is a miracle.  Here in her 70’s, she lives with no less intensity of challenge from her neurochemistry but draws steadily on some vast strength of heart and mind that makes possible a comparatively ‘normal’ life.  She lives in peace with the circumstances of her life.  In that she is both accepting and active – paradoxically surrendering the control she may never have and asserting the mysterious control that comes from that surrender.

No moment is ever repeated.  We can’t even begin to imagine all the intersections of lives and circumstances that happen in a day – or for that matter, even an instant.  Lots.

So what?

The EX:Change is teaching me there is something vital in the fleeting impermanence of change at every level.  At the very same time, there is something about the permanence of change that weirdly belies an absolutely reliable constant that finally can’t be named – at least not so far.

Saints, sages and poets have tried (cf. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Rumi, Shakespeare, Mary Oliver), so have our most revered scientists of physics, biology, chemistry.  Part of the deep reverence for mystery these folks know comes from their repeated experience of rigorously taking their respective inquiries to the powerful and inevitable intersection of abundance and emptiness (aka zero/infinity, form/formlessness, being/nothingness, appearance/illusion, earthly/divine).

While arguably over-the-top-woowoo, this interplay of the mundane and the holy is also an everyday fact that we don’t talk about a lot.  It’s one of those facts that could help a lot with the challenges we humans find with differences.

We are different in every possible way – age, gender, work, income, language, belief, relation to the land; ways of showing affection in friendship, family, romance.  The list goes on and on until it collapses into our also being one in the same – all of us right here together in the delicate vulnerability of time-limited bodies relying on the same air and water, and everything else for that matter.

We intersect.

Most often those intersections are of little seeming consequence – a road worker, a cyclist, a woman walking with an umbrella, a rainy day, and small brown birds that sound like crickets.  It won’t ever happen exactly that way again.

So what, huh?

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