If it's not fun, why do it? ~Ben & Jerry
This morning after my meditation, I walked out into the kitchen and witnessed our resident Mallard hen (a.k.a. "Mama") down at the feeder having breakfast and taking a dip in the water pan. She gobbled feed off the ground, then swiveled her head over to the water to guzzle. Then deciding it was time for a bath, she hopped in the water -- all of two inches deep -- and proceeded to fluff, preen, flap and splash to her heart's content.
Now, I've seen her do this countless times this spring, she and her beau both, and get a kick out of them every time. But something about this time was different for me -- seeing her out there, gratitude overcame me and brought me to tears. There was something about it that was so real, so vulnerable. Maybe it was because she was there alone without "Papa". Maybe it was the extent to which she was truly engaged in her bathing without a care that made her look utterly comfortable and at ease. This simple act felt big to me, as if it represented something more.
I've been struggling lately with this desire I have long had to be effortlessly good at something I love. Not that I'm put off by hard work by any stretch but I recognize that the things that I love deeply -- the creative pursuits of writing and painting and music and such -- are things I know I would have to work extraordinarily hard for in order to see any "real" success with them. I enjoy these things so much that it hardly seems worth the effort to hone a craft to such an extent that I could create a product that would be generally consumable by the world. Would such work be as soulless as I fear? Maybe not. But knowing myself and how I respond to rules and doing things right according to someone else's standards, I know I wouldn't have much fun putting my heart into something that, in essence, wasn't my own.
But maybe the question I've been wrestling with isn't about "real" success at all or about avoiding hard work as I've often thought. Maybe what I'm really concerned with is how I will leave my legacy -- after I'm gone, how will anyone ever know I was here? Children and the physical act of extending one's family tree, it seems, is the natural legacy to leave. So, when we learned we many years ago that we couldn't have kids, it seems a thought worked its way in to me and stuck: What am I going to leave behind? What will my legacy be? I realize now that I imagined it would be something I accomplished creatively -- "accomplished" according to societal standards, not my own.
What occurred to me this morning watching Mama at the feeder was, what if a legacy is simply a life well lived? A life of honoring heart and soul? Of recognizing and letting in the wonder inherent in enjoying creative pursuits? Of cherishing relationships, not only with other people, but with the natural world? What if a legacy is simply providing food and respite for a mama duck to fluff, preen, flap and splash to her heart's content on a humid spring morning? What if every little thing we do, if every little thing we are that extends love and kindness and joy to one another is enough of a legacy to leave?
And of course it is, if I let it be.
As I witness, in wonder, our rhododendron in magnificent full bloom, the leaves on the maple trees in the woods unfurling, the birds and squirrels bopping around the feeders with their song and chatter echoing around me, I know this is the life I am meant to live. A life of creative wonder and gratitude that doesn't require a text book to learn about rules and techniques and right and wrong. A life of pushing the edges of experience and exploring new things which allows us all to grow and thrive and flourish. If we simply let the lift in our hearts remind us that we are innately and intimately connected to the creative source and to all that is alive, in recognizing this and living from here, we find our collective legacy.
As I write this, the first hummingbird of the season just arrived at my window! How telling that in Native American culture, Hummingbird represents Joy. Yes! And thank you. What a great reminder of what I want to leave behind...//