The end of last summer there was such a wonderful early autumn atmosphere all around, a mysterious slowness, a laziness had overcome Mother Nature. The songs of the birds were peaceful, no longer hyperenergetic as in summer. A constant sound from the crickets filled the air, no longer shrill, accompanied by the music of the cicadas coming and going like waves washing the shore. Every so often I could hear the pop of a horse chestnut as it hit the neighbors' driveway. The leaves were falling from the ash tree, always the first tree in my garden to let them go.
Sitting beneath the ash for a long time, just listening and watching, breathing in the autumn fragrance and enjoying this harmony, to my surprise I discovered that I myself had entered into this state. Listening within myself now, there was nothing there that bothered me -- no pains, no cravings, no pressures, no passions, no stormy thoughts within my mind -- just this feeling of peace and harmony. Perhaps by moving into Mother Nature's mood I too let go of things, just as the ash lets go of its leaves. I do not feel like this very often, but I wish I did. On the other hand, if one always felt like this, one could not really be here and work: there have to be stormy thoughts, pressure, and passions in order to get things done.
One morning in early July I woke up to find a new idea in my mind: to set up a recycling program in our town. I don't know where it came from or why I should get involved in this, but it was a good idea and I was ready to be useful. So I called up our mayor and she was all for it, but she said it was my baby and I should see what I could do with it. The following week I went from house to house talking to people about keeping our planet clean and fruitful for ourselves and the generations to come, and nineteen families were ready to help. There are now seven volunteers who collect recyclable material once a month by curbside pickup. It's going very well now with thirty local families participating. We bring the stuff to a nearby town to be picked up by trucks from the city. The city government is supporting the program and would like to get more towns involved. There is a nice group of volunteers in a neighboring town doing the same thing, and we work together.
We didn't go away during my husband's vacation: our dog Shannon was ill and we did not want to leave her. She passed away in August beneath the ash tree after being our good companion for 15 years. It was especially hard for our five-year-old grandson. He was here a day before, patting Shannon and giving her water, as she could no longer walk to it by herself. The next time he came Shannon was no longer here. I told him Shannon had passed away and that her spirit was free out there in our universe visiting the moon, the sun, and the stars in the Milky Way. He was relieved to hear that after a while Shannon would return from her trip, but not necessarily looking the same way as she did. After a while, he went into the house. When I came in to look for him, I found him at the drawing table in my studio drawing Shannon on a huge sheet of paper with crayons. Shannon was standing on a colorful rainbow, and above the rainbow were the moon, the sun, and many stars. Beneath the rainbow there was a figure of a little person (himself) and a red heart, symbol of love. I was deeply touched that he instinctively used art to express his sorrow; also the idea of the rainbow as a bridge between earth and heaven is a primeval instinct surely. Yes, children still know. Later we took a walk together and, meeting a neighbor, he told her that Shannon had died and that she was now going to another galaxy.
There came another "idea-child" one morning when I was working with a group of senior citizens in a nursing home: to have an art show for three of my students who are rather talented. I enjoy working with these people -- it enriches my life. It's sad, though, to lose them: every so often one is missing and I am told he or she has died. But then come new ones, unhappy at being in a nursing home; it takes a while for them to get used to it. Our art program truly helps them forget their problems for a little while when they color the pictures or paint some themselves.
For weeks I was busy with planning, preparations, and matting 44 drawings and paintings. I had lots of help from my students, however, and everything turned out nicely. The show ran throughout September in the lobby of the nursing home.
There were moments, though, when I wished this brainchild had not been born. It was so difficult for me to give a speech at the opening ceremony with seventy people attending: I suffered for weeks beforehand, went through sleepless nights learning to say and memorize it. But after the speech was over, my friends were so happy and proud, their faces shone like the sun. They talked to people viewing their work and they seemed newly alive getting all this attention. Seeing their happy faces became for me the sweet ripe fruit of my effort indeed.
And guess what I added to my speech? I don't believe it myself. "Let's have an art show every year and not just with works of our three friends but of all of you who will come and participate in our art class." So here we go, another speech next September. And I had promised myself never ever to go through such an ordeal again!
(From Sunrise magazine, August/September 1991; copyright © 1991 Theosophical University Press)