On my route along 92nd street, past the Mother Teresa School, under the elm clad arches of 104th Avenue, along the wild gardens of Boyle Street plaza, the sunken hidden garden by the courthouse, through the piazza fronting city hall. Past the robin’s urgent mating yodel, the see-sawed whistle of the house finch, the white-throated sparrow’s O Canada Canada Canada, the chickadees Summer’s coming summer’s coming, the yellow warblers sweet sweet shredded wheat. Past all these, the calls, the hurry, the frenzy of spring have calmed to a steady hum, a conversation of clicks and clacks, of clucks, murmurs, or a simple chirp. Even the humans have quieted, the traffic thinned in the downtown core. This is the conversation of summer.
Lately I’ve been purposely stopping to listen to the quiet, to feel the warmth of the wind in my hair, to look at the wild roses blooming in the city on my way to work. (Have you noticed how pink the blossoms are when they first come out?) I go into the office buoyed by these small glimpses of joy, more generous-hearted, more at peace with whatever the day might throw me. I try in small ways to keep stopping and feeling. To look up from my computer screen and out my window for twenty seconds at a time. (Because it’s good for your eyes too.) But it’s hard to look at one thing for twenty seconds without wanting to fill the mind with some thought, something I must remember, some sentence I should write down, some phone call I should make. And when I get home, it’s sometimes hard to sit on my lovely new patio and simply look at the green, green courtyard and hear the wind in the poplars without reading or writing or rushing off to my next commitment. It’s sometimes hard to just be in my breath and breathe and breathe until the enough becomes clear. Yet, I’m convinced this is how the well of love is fed and so I keep trying and will keep trying to practice this open-heartedness to beauty that opens up my life.
About a week ago the daughter of an old friend of mine died of cancer. Joanna was 33 years old, smart, passionate, and full of life. A small tumour on her tongue eventually took over her body. From diagnosis to death was less than a year. She was just coming into the summer of her life, but in many ways it seems she was wise beyond her years. After the celebration of her passing on Saturday, I came away with this: the challenge is love. For Joanna that meant a constant curiosity about the world around her and the world inside her. She was always listening.