Saturday, November 30, 2013

Finding your Invincible Summer

Thanksgiving: Finding your Invincible Summer

“In the depths of winter
I finally learned
There was in me
An invincible summer.”


Rock from The Giving Tree Gardens, Cape Cod, Mass. 

Thanksgiving is a day when we find gratitude for what we have. When we see the invincible summer in all of our winters.

I ask this, “Why is it so hard to do?”

Not so much on Thanksgiving per se. I do okay on Thanksgiving.

It is the rest of the time. I am so much better at seeing what isn’t enough, what is hard, and ruminating on my challenges. In fact, I am even good at getting down on myself for ruminating too much.

It is literally ironic. Essentially, for me and for most of us, all of our needs are met. In this way, we are gifted, lucky. There are so many countless blessings in our lives that we take completely for granted. No matter. It is what we do. In the midst of all we need, we struggle to see it. We miss it.

These days, I have increasingly more moments of presence and gratitude. I thank my yoga practice and the teachings of yoga. I am here today with my family and thank goodness, I am present and centered enough to feel very lucky.

The universe has helped. Earlier I saw a ladybug- the symbol of good fortune. That is not all. Hours after the ladybug, in a Cape Cod sculpture garden I saw this poem.

“In the depths of winter
I finally learned
There was in me
An invincible summer.”

I think they both (the ladybug and the poem) are saying the same thing. The universe is making sure that I get it. Catherine! You are so very lucky. Be grateful. You have everything you need. Pay attention! Do not miss it!

There is within each moment an invincible summer.

Zuri’s Story

On days like today, when I get it, when I get how lucky I am, I can’t help but think of Zuri and how much she doesn’t have. Still, she finds her summer. No matter how wintery it gets, she finds her summer. 

Thanksgiving is a hard day for her. Her mom always goes out the night before. In fact, Zuri can’t remember a Thanksgiving Eve when Sherece hasn’t gone out. Most years, Thanksgiving is a non-event. It does not happen. All Wednesday night, Zuri lays awake waiting for Eric (her older brother) and her mom to come home.

Making the best of it, this year Zuri cuddled up on the couch with Rashan (her little brother). They watched Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. It is one of Zuri’s favorites.  So tired, Rashan fell asleep before Yukon Cornelius and Rudolph even meet. Zuri, slid herself out from the cuddle and rested Rashan’s head on a little pillow. She covered him up with a blanket. Like always, she kissed him on the forehead.

With time to kill, Zuri pulled her box out of the closet and finds The Yoga Bag. She thought she’d read quietly while Rashan Slept. She found notes on a Thanksgiving Class I taught back in 2010. My notes were about gratitude and hope. I always write what I need to hear. I wonder what she must be thinking as she sits on the old, used couch waiting for her mom and her brother who may or may not come home.

 Zuri, a bright light, is able to see the summer in the winter. I see her smile. She pulls out a pen and starts to write a list.

I am thankful for:

My mom
Aunt Jasmine
Miss Klein
Miss Amanda

She writes this list of people. Her mom is at the top of the list. Thinking, she adds to the list reasons why she is thankful for each person.

I am thankful for:

My mom for teaching me patience and the importance of self-care and sobriety.
Rashan for his unconditional love.
Eric for teaching me courage.
Aunt Jasmine for teaching me commitment and showing me love.
Emily and her family for always being here for me.
Miss Klein for showing what it means to watch out for others.
Miss Amanda and The Yoga Bag for teaching me yoga and how to love myself.

She folded up her paper and put it in the back of her journal with the other stuff she absolutely can’t forget.

Her mom doesn’t get home until 5:00 AM. Eric doesn’t come home at all. It doesn’t look good for Thanksgiving. Aunt Jasmine is traveling and Zuri’s Dad is with his new girlfriend. Zuri has already checked the cupboards and the fridge. They don’t have any food.

When Sherece finally wakes up at 1:00 PM, she says not to worry. She says they can go to the food pantry at the church.

Zuri doesn’t want to go. She begs her mom not to go. Her mom said they have to. They don’t have any food and all of their money is gone (what she doesn’t tell Zuri is that she was at the casino last night and the money is really all gone). Her mom tells Zuri if they don’t go, they actually wont eat today. [See this link for a list of the food panties and kitchens in the Buffalo are. Lots of people doing great work. Lots of love.]

They walk in and Zuri keeps her head low. She is afraid people will see her. She looks up and there is Jayla. Ugh! Jayla, the girl who bullies her practically everyday. Their eyes meet. Jayla is with her grandma, just the two of them. At first neither of them smile, not Zuri, not Jayla-- they just stare at each other.

Zuri wanted something else. She was tired of the ways things always have been. Today, with her mom at the highest levels of hung-over and broke, Zuri needed something good. She needed something to be better. Zuri wanted Jayla to know she wouldn’t say anything. Neither of them wanted to be needing this help. Neither of them had it good. She knew all of the stuff that she had heard about Jayla’s mom. She knew how Jayla must be feeling today. Zuri looked right at Jayla and she thought this thought hard, “Jayla, I am not going to tell anyone. Jayla, I know you have it hard at home.”

Jayla smiled the smallest of smiles back. Then, it happened. Jayla walked right up to Zuri and said, “Hi.”

Zuri said, “Hey” (the coolest form of ‘hi’).

They got their dinners and then they sat next to each other. They started talking. Zuri told Jayla about the yoga classes at school and Miss Amanda, the yoga teacher. She told Jayla how Miss Amanda loves all of the kids just like they were her own. Jayla admitted to Zuri that she was afraid to go to yoga because she didn’t know how to do any yoga at all.

After dinner, Zuri and Jayla went to the open area in the church basement. Zuri showed Jayla Warrior I and Warrior II. She showed her crow pose. They practiced crow and tried not to land on their faces. Against the wall, they practiced handstands. Jayla held a handstand for a count of 20 with Zuri's help. Every time they fell, they laughed.

Zuri's mom sat and talked to Jayla’s grandma. They seemed to like each other. Zuri kept checking and Sherece seemed okay. Ah, Zuri could relax and have fun. It was then that Zuri realized that what she thought would be the worst-dinner-ever was turning out to be okay. Right then she decided to add, “I am thankful for getting to know Jayla” to her list. Its funny how things can turn out if you keep your mind and your heart open.

It funny how in the midst of the difficult, there is always something good.

The Process

“In the depths of winter
I finally learned
There was in me
An invincible summer.”
There is always winter in our lives. Sometimes it is all consuming and winter is a big part of what is going on. In those times, it seems like it is all dark and cold. Other times winter is barely present. During these times, nearly everything seems new, or growing, even summery. It works in cycles- spring, summer, fall, and winter- renewal, growth, bounty, and quiet. It all works in cycles. For example, it might be the winter of our hope about someone changing, growing, or healing. Or it might be the winter of our youth or a project. It might be the winter of what was an amazing and love-filled relationship. All things run their seasons and come to winter.

This is important. It is not all happening in the same cycle. You see, where there is one winter there is another summer. Where there is one spring there is another fall. Like August in Buffalo (summer) and Africa (winter), every winter has its summer. Every spring its fall. It is all there, all of the time.

When I saw the poem above, it was 30 degrees outside. It was winter. I was walking in a sculpture garden with my husband. I had taken my Mom to the garden for a nice trip out to Cape Cod. With her illness, she was happy for the drive out to the Cape, but she could not walk the trail. My Mother and Father insisted that we walk the garden path without them and went back to the car to wait for us.

We walked. I saw art, trees, and quotes. Knowing. I saw all of this knowing my English-teacher Mom would love this…. if only she could see it.

It felt wintery.

I paused when I saw the quote. It was printed on paper and taped to a rock. “In the depths of winter, I finally learned there was within me an invincible summer.” To me, summer is the time of abundance and warmth. It is a season of right here right now.

With the ladybug and then this message on the rock, I felt as if the universe was asking me to stay in the season of presence and warmth right in the midst of the winter of things.

I felt the universe was asking this of Zuri too. Here she was at the free Thanksgiving dinner at the church. Things were wintery and empty. The leaves were off the trees and there was no hope for spring, renewal. Right there, she sees Jayla. Jayla, the girl that used to tease Zuri, seemed like she might be a new friend.

In the midst of this winter, there was a bit of summer.

Summer shows up. It shows up when you open your eyes and your heart to what the universe is offering you. It is then that you find it —compassion and presence—the warmth of summer, an invincible summer-- right in the middle of a winter.

So I ask you, what is there for you to see in the midst of your winter? What summer might be there? What might you see if you shifted from counting your worries and your problems and just noticed what is right there in front of you (your Jayla or time with your Mom)?

I am going to stay in my practice of letting go of worries and stresses and counting my blessings. I am going to stay in my practice of seeing what I have rather than fearing what I might lose.

This too-- I hope that when I slip, I catch myself. And if I don’t see it when it is happening, I hope the universe is kind enough to keep sending me ladybugs and messages on rocks.

In the midst of the winter, find your summer. It is there.



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