Editorial September 2006: Butterflies & Hummingbirds By Hilary Williamson
'The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.' (Rabindranath Tagore)
I spent the summer at a lakeside cottage, where I was regularly entranced by the sight a hummingbird hovering one foot away from me in the vicinity of a flowering hibiscus (no we're not in the tropics, it's in a pot). That tiny bird put furious energy into staying in one spot beside the huge red flower that dwarfed it. The image - of enormous effort invested in staying still - stayed with me through the post-summer back to school frenzy, soon to be followed by the mad rush for the holidays. That small bundle of humming energy reminded me how busily we fill our lives with the minutiae of daily activities. We wonder where the times goes and why it seems to pass ever more quickly down the years.
This led me to books - doesn't it always? - and an eclectic selection of recent releases that offer something on the topic. As our over-scheduled kids head back to school, you really must pick up The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids by Alexandra Robbins, a book that should make any parent pause and think about what really does and does not matter in preparing our sons and daughters for life. At the other extreme, for a study of the creator of Peter Pan - who did a better job than most of staying in touch with his inner child - dip into Lisa Chaney's Hide-and-Seek with Angels: A Life of J. M. Barrie, to find out about 'the man whose work was shockingly modern in its uncompromising exploration of the seductiveness and dangers of escape and fantasy, and their inextricable connection to the passage of time.'
Prefer fiction on the passage of time, and what matters most? Lolly Winston writes with wit, empathy - and a wayward humor that adds grace to daily happenstance - about sweating the big stuff of life - death in Good Grief and childlessness in Happiness Sold Separately. Though the topics are dark, these books are anything but, shining with hope and joy as the characters work through the severe challenges thrown at them. And, of course, Fannie Flagg is a writer to read when reflecting on the foibles of life and its passage - Can't Wait to Get to Heaven offers Flagg's trademark caring community in a heartwarming southern setting (Elmwood Springs, Missouri this time).
Want to step back from your busy life, but not sure how (aside from reading of course)? Listen to Jon Kabat-Zinn's 2-CD set, Mindfulness for Beginners. He defines mindfulness as 'paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, as if your life depended on it, non-judgmentally', and goes on to explain how the practice can unlock new (and healthier) perspectives on daily living. Another useful tool for reflection is Kelly Sullivan Walden's I Had the Strangest Dream...: The Dreamer's Dictionary for the 21st Century, which offers tools to better undersand our personal dream worlds. It's fascinating - and surprising - to work on dream analysis and discover what's really occupying your mind.
So, ease up on over-scheduling, relax and make time for reading and reflection, stop and smell the roses - and observe a hummingbird in nature, rather than being one. Carpe diem!
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