The song has been stuck in my head all week. Normally that would make me a candidate for a padded room, but I decided to pay attention. I googled the words (though I could have looked at the back of my 1970s Judy Collins' album jacket).
"Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way."
I have let the words to the song roll around in my head. Clouds, both angel hair and black stormy ones, are part of a balanced life. Joy and loss come together, they are both sides of the same cloud. I can see that expecting my journey to be one way could have gotten in the way of living into the path of reality; idealizing a relationship or a job or good health into a sense of entitlement. And when our expectation of the way things should be doesn't continue to happily-ever-after it can jade us into thinking that there is a dark cloud permanently blocking our personal sun. We have a choice, stay in the stormy place--or the idealized place--or come through to check out both sides.
There is no room for expectation in the garden, either. Gardening is a humbling exercise in letting go, so much is out of my control. If I expect it to behave in a certain way, it will let me down. Sometimes what I plant grows, and sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it gets eaten by insects, slugs, rabbits, or disease. Some perennials come up for two years and the third year they don't or they are puny. (The other side of that cloud is that sometimes volunteer flowers and even vegetables come up where I didn't plant them.) A friend gave me a tiny chocolate vine sprout--apparently its flowers smell like chocolate. Something was eating it, so I dug it up and put in a pot on my deck in the relentless heat and forgot to keep it watered. She says it could come back. There's room for hope, but not expectation.
Sometimes my life feels out-of-sync. This week I have felt particularly off balance. But nature is not always in rhythm either, or it doesn't seem so. The garden has had too much heat and too little rain this month; sometimes it needs its human gardeners to thrive. And one night I watched the female fireflies flashing in the grass, but there were no males in the trees looking for them. The next evening the males were there, but not the females. I knew a little about fireflies--enough to know that what we observe is not all peace and beauty--but I went on a Google exploration to see what else I could discover. There are more than 2000 species of fireflies and there are indeed some subversive and brutally aggressive ones. (Not unlike some varieties of humans.) Fireflies live underground in a larval state for two years and live above ground for two weeks before they die. Their lives are all about reproducing and providing a bit of beauty for human enjoyment. It seems a sin not to sit outside in the heat and mosquitoes and appreciate them. (If you want to know more about fireflies and their light patterns google "Blink Two Times if You Like Me.")
I discovered stars this week. I have become so accustomed to not being able to see them in the city that I don't look for them. I lay on my back in the grass after twilight, surrounded by the solar lights I recently put around the perimeter of my yard. The stars are weak, but they are there. I was an audience of one for the evening performance--the dramatic and beautiful dance of the fireflies weaving their lights high in the trees looking for love, accompanied by the song of the cicadas. I created a magic mood with my solar lights, but they were only the set design to Mother Nature's opera. (I am sure I don't need to point out what I would have missed had I observed my lights from inside the glass door.)
"But something's lost but something's gained in living every day."
True joy must be willing to embrace impermanence. I am learning to grieve the losses in my life, again and again; and to embrace the joy of the present. Loss and joy, different sides of the same cloud. Life's illusion is that we think we have it figured out, that we are in control. But we are not. When we let go of expectation, then we can truly be alive.
"I've looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall,
I really don't know life at all."
And now I hope I can put this song to rest.