Outside the front windows of my cottage, a small juvenile Anna’s hummingbird perches at the red glass feeder that hangs by a slim chain, his emerald feathers and fuchsia-colored head nearly incandescent in the soft morning haze of clouded light. Observing him from my chair in the living room, my heart lifts in a quiet song of joy, welcoming the visitor as a gift of inspiration against the low grey sky.
The perpetual shade cast by the dear Grandmother Monterey cypress, the great being who presides over the front garden and gate, means that there are few nectar-producing flowers to lure these swift-winged messengers of beauty. Near the beginning of this year, I purchased the hummingbird feeder in the hopes of drawing the miraculous creatures closer that I might marvel at and appreciate them. [Read “The Hummingbird of Devotion“] For several months, the red glass feeder hung by the window, unnoticed and untouched by the few “hummers” that remain locally on this stretch of California coastline through the winter (most of them depart and fly south great distances to warmer climates in Mexico). Disappointed, I could only hope that they would eventually come and find my offering.
Four years ago this week, as part of building an author’s platform in my search to find a publisher for my first book, I launched the Soul Artist Journal. Simultaneously I created the Riverspeak podcast, and told myself that I would keep both offerings going weekly for six months, after which I would reassess how I felt and the general response. Initially, I was far more keen on the podcast than the blog (a word I still dislike), but curiously over the course of a year or so, the podcast fell by the wayside and the column hung on and slowly evolved.
I have shared previously in various posts that this recurring “postcard” has become its own sort of soul practice for me. Week after week, I sit down to write, endeavoring to illuminate some facet of a conscious life in a mindful, appreciative way, hoping it will offer nourishment to readers and manage to sidestep being too self-absorbed. In an ongoing way, I am celebrating a life for the senses, and the ordinary sacred. I like to think the Soul Artist Journal is a gentle nod toward the reenchantment of everyday life… or at least a glimpse into a different way of viewing the gifts of the moment. Perspective is everything, after all.
These days, more than two hundred posts after I began this little writing adventure with only a small circle of friends and family as readers, I have no idea who the vast majority of readers and subscribers are. And I continue to be amazed at the kind responses, encouragement, and thanks I receive from strangers across the globe.
If you build it, they will come… eventually.
Certainly I wish the posts were better, more evocative with their words, more artful in their ability to touch the heart and strum the soul with soft fingers. Yet I decided early on that I simply cannot spent endless hours editing and tinkering with each offering. In a way, the practice is more than simply showing up weekly, it is also about detachment; letting go of the outcome, and accepting that some posts have more beautiful wings and are read/shared more widely than others. So be it. Onward.
There are some wonderful blogs out there with utterly marvelous writing, penned by skilled and poetic writers at whose feet I would kneel in respect, and yet not one of those that I admire deliver a new post weekly. So I give myself a little pat on the back, reminding myself that this is not about comparison, either in writing ability or number of followers; my job is to create and share, not compare. This is true for each of us, I say.
How many times have I written that each of us has something to offer to the Larger Story? That message is the heart of my philosophy and my work. This journal isn’t all that I bring, but it continues to be a good part of it.
Admittedly, at times the commitment to an unpaid and modest weekly column has felt like a millstone around my neck. Yet like any practice, I continue to be better — as a writer, as a person — for showing up diligently and without fail. Too there is the fact that a core group of avid readers looks eagerly forward to Sunday mornings when the post arrives, and a couple of individuals have informed me that I can never stop writing the journal. Bless you all for reading and sharing. Your dedication keeps me going when I feel less than inspired, or that I have nothing of interest to share, and the path always seems uphill. You’re the colorful “hummers” who finally came to the red glass feeder outside my front windows… and I will keep writing these little little love notes to your soul.
Watching the little one perched on the copper base, dipping his black needle of a bill into the opening to drink, I feel a sense of innate goodness and gratitude in this quiet life I’ve created. The choice to live deliberately and mindfully, with senses cast wide to the beauty that surrounds. The tall, graceful trees in the neighborhood. The birds who come for the food that I place for them. The alluring scent and sweet juiciness of a ripe nectarine from the farmer’s market. Ever-changing light and hues of the sky, the voice of wind as it dances through the Grandmother’s outstretched arms, the low chant of the near distant sea in the early morning and at night. Like a wordless prayer, each thing calls us to pause, take a deep breath, and open the heart again — regardless of all the other ongoing demands of life and work, the tragic losses, and despite an uphill climb with weary ache in bones and spirit.
Breathing in, breathing out.
Accepting that everything in life is a flow of tides and movement, breaking us open and then weaving us back together in an enlarged capacity for feeling and being. Surrendering to the deep longing to contribute something meaningful and authentic to our collective existence. Following the breath and the drum of the heart through the changing seasons. Still breathing in, breathing out.
Walk in beauty, say the Native Americans. It is a blessing for others, as well as a directive for the individual — to appreciate the goodness and grace that surrounds us, and to live from a place of gratitude. And I would say that it also means to continuously offer something from the soul, whatever we are most called to do in life from our deepest core, as a giveaway to our tribe and the ‘more-than-human’ world. Whether you are feeding the birds, your children, or the community at large, and whether that nourishment is literal or metaphorical, keep giving it away, my friend, while appreciating what others are bringing too.
In a time of so much violence, hatred, and heartbreak, each soulful offering and act of goodness matters. Deeply. And in devotion to something larger, even if it is only a hummingbird that you are feeding, or the homeless person on the street, one will have been fed in kindness.