In the Bay Area we have had an exceptionally rainy winter, especially compared to recent years of drought. We are grateful to have our reservoirs full, but we may have forgotten how a typical wet winter feels, let alone this seemingly daily deluge. So when spring burst forth in all its sun-drenched flower-studded green finery and the air became soft and welcoming for days on end, we breathed sighs of relief, and we celebrated.
Now the rain is back and predicted to be gray and wet for days. I don’t trust predictions, but let’s assume that’s the case. If I had not made the most of that beautiful weather and those lovely sights, sounds and smells, I would be feeling pretty grumpy about now. But I did appreciate it and made a point of making lots of room for noticing it, so even as the rain returns I have no regrets.
There is no cure for how things change except to live fully in the moment, not putting off deep appreciation of beauty for another day just because we have a long to do list. That to do list will be there, like a trusty dog who has the bad habit of nipping at our heels. Sure, there are some things that can’t be put off and we do them with our full attention, then discern what can wait and get out into nature and let the sun shine on our faces and breathe in the sweet scents abounding.
If we don’t do that, then when the rains come, we realize our opportunity was fleeting, that the rain and wind will force the blossoms off the trees and beat the flowers down, and nothing will be as it was. We will have missed it and now mourn it.
Where else in life do we experience the same feeling of having missed what mattered? Perhaps we had our eyes on the wrong prize, caught up in attending to ‘important matters’, believing that the beauty and wonder of life — of our loved ones, of our bodies health and abilities, of our own good fortune — will sit around waiting for us to take notice, to engage, to appreciate this moment and all that arises in it. Maybe we are so busy mourning the way things used to be that we aren’t able to see what’s right in front of us and find gratitude for that.
Things change. We change. No amount of wishing will change that! The only way to have no regrets is to be fully present to notice the beauty in every moment.
As I sit here writing, I look out across the wet deck at the soft gray clouds drift by. I see how the pale green leaves are filling in the empty spaces on the oak tree, and I hear loved ones — my husband of many years and an old friend visiting from a great distance — in other rooms of the house doing their healthy morning routines. I am chock full gratitude for this moment, too.
But, you may say, so much is wrong with the world and perhaps with our lives. How can we indulge ourselves in enjoying spring or anything else? After all, the same rains that filled the reservoirs and ended years of drought in California also flooded homes and businesses in some areas and caused debris flows in areas trying to recovery from devastating fires. Life is full of all manner of challenges. We do what we can to help, even at times that all we have is our good wishes for all who suffer everywhere.
I leave you with this Buddhist parable:
A traveling monk encounters a tiger. He runs across a field and the tiger chases him. Coming to a precipice, he catches hold of the root of a vine and lowers himself over the edge. As the frustrated tiger sniffs and snarls above him, the monk hangs there, trembling. In the valley below, he sees another tiger pacing, waiting for him to fall. And a few inches away from him, a mouse comes out of a crevice in the rock face and starts gnawing at his vine.
Just then the monk notices a ripe strawberry. He clings to the vine with one hand, and plucks the strawberry with the other.