the blessing of beginnings
i’m just in from my morning rounds, my make-believe that i’m the caretaker of the dawn. the nubs of my fingers are nearly numb, for i stayed out too long. i was breathing in the heavens, breathing in the star-stitched sky, scanning for the disappearing moon, the moon playing peek-a-boo this morning.
the world was just rustling out of its bedsheets — or so it seemed. the trees whispered. off in the distance, a train let out its morning moan. i might have caught the stirring of the cardinal’s wing. or maybe it was a night critter, finally ambling home to bed. something in the bushes moved.
i know no holier way to greet the day, the morning light. i know no holier way to unfurl the carpet for the year that’s new, that’s just beginning. today, the dash between the first and third, the dash between the world’s new year and mine (my birthday is a string of primes: 1.3.57), is wholly a day of quiet rapt attention. i’m crouched down low, tucked off to the side, scanning the year ahead, the days of possibility. i’m considering what might come — what might break my heart, what might take my breath away, what might bowl me over with pure sheer joy.
i’ve come to think that my time-delay birthday is one of the gosh-darn blessings in this life that pretty much dropped down upon me. sort of like the curly hair that i’ve come to realize has saved me zillions of dollars in pink sponge rollers i’ve not had to buy, or hours not spent in the beauty parlor chair where alchemy and goop put curl to other people’s stick-straight locks. i had nothing to do with odd birthday or curly locks — or any of what amounted to my starter package, really. but, along the way, i’ve learned to make the most of it.
so my year comes on tiptoes. my year slinks in around the bend. no crash-bang-boom for me. i take my new year launch in itty-bitty baby steps. i’ve three days to consider the turning of the page.
and there’s little i love as much as a new beginning, a chance to start again. to dust off my knees, inhale a deep and cleansing breath, and make a vow: this time, dear God, i’ll try even harder.
try harder to bite my tongue when the words are bunched up in my throat, just ready to launch a harsh, “will you PLEASE hurry up! will you PLEASE clean your room! will you GET OUT OF BED!”
try harder to breathe deep the mantra of dorothy day and st. therese of lisieux: “by little and by little.” as in, by little acts of kindness, by little courage, by little acts of love in the face of awfulness, we stand our one best chance to take up a notch this life that sometimes scrapes our knees and gives us hives and burns our eyes with stinging tears.
because it’s worth a pause within the pause, here’s a passage from robert ellsberg’s brilliantly edited and annotated, ‘dorothy day: selected writings’:
“simply, it consisted of performing, in the presence and love of God, all the little things that make up our everyday life and contact with others. from therese, dorothy learned that any act of love might contribute to the balance of love in the world, any suffering endured in love might ease the burden of others; such was the mysterious bond within the body of Christ. we could only make use of the little things we possessed — the little faith, the little strength, the little courage. these were the loaves and fishes. we could only offer what we had, and pray that God would make the increase. it was all a matter of faith.”
i suppose, because i seem to circle back to it every year, it’s becoming my new year prayer. it’s the only way i know — by little and by little — to take the mountain climb.
i’m certain there’s a wise person somewhere who realized the only way to change the world was one baby step at a time. in my scant few moments of insight — when the world before my eyes snaps crystal clear and sharply focused, instead of all a blur and hard to comprehend — i suddenly grasp that most folks who are making a difference, a big fat difference, are doing it with no more magic than you or i possess. they’re simply smart enough — or unfazed enough — to realize that one step firmly planted in front of another, that one phone call made, or one question bravely asked, or one trip across the street or across the ocean (it hardly matters which, sometimes), just might be the one that starts to pile up, to tilt momentum in the direction of holy change, in the difference between a world that is and a world that just might be.
maybe it’s time to steal a play from the smart-people’s play book: the baby-step guide to living. maybe it’s time to line up in the baby-step brigade.
for one thing, there’s less of a realignment when, inevitably, i flub it. taking a deep breath and trying again is a whole heck of a lot easier when all you need do is “take two” in the baby step department. but baby step + baby step = toddler step. and toddler step + toddler step = well, you get the math.
so here’s my prayer for this new and not-yet-scripted year:
dear Holiness, cast your rays of sparkling light — of shaft of sun, and dappled moonbeam — across my pot-holed path.
give me grace to hold my words, to not engage in prattling on about the wacky folk who try to topple me. give me grace — and wisdom, and a dash of far-sightedness — to live each day as if it’s my one last chance to leave a trail of the world as holy as i imagine it could be.
give me one last puff of energy on the evenings when i’m drained, and the phone rings and it’s someone i love who needs to talk it through, whatever is the hell the one i love has just encountered.
give me forgiveness in dollops. give me, please, enough to share it with abandon — most especially on those who try to take me down, who call me names that break my heart, who whisper unkind somethings.
dear God, thank you for bringing me once again to the crest of this next hill. thank you for the chance to look out upon the undulations of years past and days ahead. hold me in your tender palm, and those blessed unshakable arms. be the hand i squeeze when i get scared. and the pure fresh air that fills my lungs.
dear God, help me take it up a notch. and be ready with the band-aids when i fall and skin my knees.
much love, always, b.
dear chair people, can you see the itty bitty dot of light in that picture up above? just above the filigree of tree? that’s the ringed wonder, saturn. and just before dawn it was shining in the southeast sky. now, i have just about the dumbest little camera known to humankind and it never ever takes the dots of light that i’m hoping it will capture. but today, miraculously, it did. well, if you get out your magnifying glass, you’ll see it did. a small wonder like that is enough to start my day with a skip to the heart. so i hope it’s a contagious skip, and you too encounter a star-stitch of wonder today.
so, what’s your blessing for the new beginning?
Who would want to take you down? Lemme at ’em! Oops, that’s not the right spirit, is it. A very happy birthday and may this year bring you all you ask for and then some.
i love a fierce tackle over my left shoulder. you’re the best. and a blessing of the first order. xoxox
I so love walking with you under the star-stitched sky. A loving heart and a brilliant mind were also a part of your “starter package.” Thank you for sharing these gifts with all of us. And The Little Way — another special love we happen to share. . . Thank you for this beautiful post today.
Happy New Year to you, dear Barbara, and Happy Birthday, too! May all the beauty you share come winging back to you in a thousand lovely ways. xoxo
bless YOU, sweetheart. our stars were simply waiting in the wings, twiddling our thumbs till we stumbled across each other’s paths……..and now they’re hitched. so watch out universe. xoxoxo
“we could only offer what we had and pray that God would make the increase.” I’m going to write that down and use it as my guide as I start each day.
Hope you have a great birthday. And remember, you can never eat too much cake!
i know. it’s a line totally worth writing down; in fact, best inscribed on the heart.
thank you for the cake note, dear mary. a cake i came to love last year was called “hummingbird cake,” and i want to say it’s a cake tasha tudor would love. i’m sure in one of her book of receipts, there is a fine cake. but i don’t think one could be finer than the cake baked for me last birthday by a dear and beloved friend….
here’s the recipe from last year’s birthday meander…
I went back to look at the recipe. Any cake that calls for 8 ounces of cream cheese is a winner with me. But even better, I discovered a Mary Oliver poem that I wasn’t familiar with–a small gift that I will treasure.
oh, dear, i hope all that cream cheese is merely the frosting. or maybe that’s why it was SO yummy! i love that you discovered a dollop of mary with your hummingbird! xox >
When the ringed wonder, Saturn appears in a picture you’ve taken on the dawn of your birthday, I say heaven is greeting you in a very special way. May you have many more happy surprises from the universe…
sweet! be sure to note that the tiny dot of light — the one that’s saturn — is above the trees above, and perhaps imperceptible unless the image is super-sized. that bigger light down below, it’s just a darn street lamp. just making sure no one thinks saturn appeared QUITE so emphatically in my lens. i found it sort of delightful that the street lamp was trying to pretend it was saturn, and making it look like i had a far better camera than i do. but the little dot of saturn IS there. and i love your message, so bless you and thank you….
Oh yes, my eyes looked for the dot above the trees. Didn’t notice the street lamp till you mentioned it. We know it’s there…dot or no dot! Really love your blog!
I’m a new reader, and I’m so glad I found you. Your entry took my breath away. A very happy birthday to you and a blessed new year.
bless you and welcome to the table. it’s a gentle place of great good company. so often what i find at the table — from the so-called “chairs”! — puts vigor to my heartbeat, and wings to my flight.thank you for the birthday wishes, the very first i found at the dawn of this new year…..
I see that dot of light. With my naked eye.
My blessing for the new beginning? I’m going to ponder that in my heart for a while. But thank you for asking. I hope our paths converge this year.
“Starter package.” I love that. Maybe each of us was given just what we need in our starter package for a lifetime of baby steps. Happy birthday!
oh, now there is a birthday present!!! lauralynnbrown HERSELF pulling up a birthday chair. laura lynn, who has added so much depth and texture to this year. you made my heart leap out of my chest the first time i read your words, and you pretty much make my heart leap every time since…..
i too hope our paths converge in real time and real place….xoxo
I so love these words . I love and am comforted by the thought of thinking about my little offerings to God being spread around like the loaves and fishes. I love your New Years prayer. I love sitting at the table with you. This is one of my blessings for the new year.
My other blessings will be every day I get to spend with an old Dawg (that’s his name) and being thankful for the life I live. I will have a year of baby steps.
Happy birthday. What a great way to start the new year.
dear cari, it IS a pretty grand image, the image of our little bits being “loaved and fished”! (making up words is one of my life’s delights.) and all thanks to the ever-wise dorothy day!
blessings to you and each and every baby step we all begin to take……
so, about a million times i’ve written about how much i’m over the moon for my sweet college kid. well, he made this e-video birthday card, and every time i watch it, i weep. when i told him i loved it so much i wanted the whole world to see it, he told me the one place in the world where i could share it was here — at the chair. (don’t you love that he knows how sacred a place this is?)
so here is exhibit ABCDEFGHIJKandLMNOP as to why my heart is without words in trying to say how much i love that blessed child…..:
crazy wild, huh?!?! what a sweetheart. xoxoxoxox
Happiest of new years to you Barbara! David first proclaimed the blessing for your precious new beginning, “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.” Ps 65:11
I know you will walk this path in awe and gratitude and share the goodness of it here at the table. Can’t wait!
awe, indeed! bless you.
Hope you had a blessed Birthday, Barbara! And, I am going to have to remember that quote above from Robert Ellsberg, how beautiful.
i love the ellsberg passage too. so so beautiful…..
Re: the video: Wow. He is something else. Re: you: Wishing continued blessings beyond the day.
thanks, notherbarb. i felt a little silly because of the line about “author,” but of course we know this is a sweet kid writing to his mom so he has a slightly skewed view of the one who stirred his porridge all those years. but other than worrying that that little bit might best not be shared, i was just so tickled at the power of these kids to wield animated love notes…..