This is one of my favorite quotes, one that many have heard before. To me, it means to find joy, in any circumstance you are in. While working in my yard today, it took on a much deeper meaning. I'd like to share my experience, but hope it makes sense. Sometimes it's hard to articulate lessons learned from the spirit that teach your heart.
I have several things that I love, but right up there with family and friends would be flowers and nature of all kind. I'm guessing that I gained this love from my parents....my mother who would be frequently found sitting on a log sketching twisted driftwood while we children would play in the dry river beds in the desert of Arizona, or the times we would stop every few miles on a road trip to gather soil and compared their colors when we arrived home. Maybe it was from my dad who loved taking us fishing, dove hunting, frog gigging, or working outside in the garden, milking cows, or heaven forbid....cleaning the stinky chicken coop in a million degrees weather.
Because of that love, one of my favorite times of year is when I can go to the nursery and start creating a palette of color that will bring beauty to the outdoors surrounding my home. I love looking for different colors and textures of leaves that will compliment each other and together create a harmonious picture and place of peace.
I mentioned that working in nature was my love, but failed to mention that my family does not have the same sentiment. Yes, they are grateful for a beautiful place to live, but have no desire to be outside creating it. They patronize me once a year and help me out for a few hours to help lighten the load of the flats upon flats of plants I bring home that need to be planted...not because they love doing it, but because they love me and know how much joy it brings to me each season.
That being considered, I try to do all I can to not bother them. Today was a case in point. I got up around 6 am, put some old clothes on, and headed outside. To my disappointment, it had rained during the night leaving my flowerbeds muddy. I contemplated going back inside and heading to the gym but decided to see what was I could possibly accomplish in light of the circumstances. I ended up planting the last few herbs and a clematis surrounded by yarrow in my side yard. Mud caked my sandals to the point where I could hardly walk, but with a few scrapes of a shovel and I was on my way again.
What I really wanted to complete was to place mulch in my newly planted flowerbeds, a task that seemed far above what my MS legs would allow. It was still early. I was impatient to wait for help, so decided to give it the old college try, first carrying the waterlogged bags to their destination, then using the wheelbarrow to carry them.....all of which left my arms and legs shaking to the point I had to sit down and reevaluate my methods. I wanted more than anything to be successful. It was then that I decided to rest a bag on top of the pile of bags, cut it open, then poured its contents into the wheelbarrow. It could then be easily pushed to it's destination and dumped or shoveled out into the beds. I was so excited! It was working. Slowly the 24 bags of mulch dwindled....very slowly.... to a smaller and smaller pile. This was a job that I knew that if I was patient and wait for others to help me would only take a short time but I have to admit, part of my motivation was to prove MS wrong....I could still do these things. I didn't want it to stop me.
As I worked, the clouds gathered. The temperatures dropped. Part way into my adventure it started raining. I thought, "Guess that's the end of this. I better go in." They I asked myself "Why?" "How is a little water going to hurt me?" I put on a flannel shirt, only to quickly get wet. Later I tried a windbreaker, but even that over time became heavy with water. I got a step stool and reached high for an old rain pancho hanging on the garage wall. The water couldn't weigh me down now!.......then.... it started hailing. I had to find shelter. The hail was starting to become painful as it pelted every part of my body.
I went into my garage, door wide open, and propped myself up against my car. I wondered what I should do next while listening to the wonderful sounds created by the rain and hail on the pavement. It wasn't too long before the hail turned to heavy rain, then slowly over the next few minutes back to a light rain.
I ventured back out....large blue pancho covering my body, rake in hand, ready to finish the job. I noticed that although it never stopped raining, it's density ebbed and flowed throughout the morning making my job easier at times, giving me a break from the pounding rain. I'm sure I was a sight to behold, muddy from head to toe and hair plastered to my head like a drowning rat, but it didn't matter. I was in the present noticing everything around me.
Although job wasn't easy, my job was made lighter by seeing beauty in every corner of my yard. The sandstone rocks dug into the ground to be used as stepping stones. Stones that were carried home by my mother while searching for wildflowers in the mountains. The peonies, flowers I planted for my daughter in law, getting ready to show their bright colors, reminded me of my love for her. The rose of Sharon tree getting ready to flower reminded me of my mother in law and her mission to Hawaii and how she filled her yard with beautiful flowers from the islands upon her return. Then the memory of my mother just before her passing, holding the "little Woodruff" flower in her hands as she recounted memories of her grandmother that lived in Woodruff.
When I started this job, my thoughts were, "I am going to do this despite the rain", but as I emptied that last bag I recognized all that I had gained. My muscles were stronger due to the heavy lifting. I had enjoyed the beauty of being in the "now", leaving any cares of the world behind me for a time. I was blessed with many memories of those I love, and I had a beautiful yard.
It dawned on me that I was looking at the storm all wrong. I didn't do those things despite the rain. I was able to do those things because of the rain. What I had perceived as my obstacle was the conduit in providing me strength. The rain cooled my body allowing me to work, which gave me an opportunity to strengthen my muscles through work, making me stronger for other things that may come my way in the future.
So....maybe those storms aren't storms at all, but opportunities for us to grow and learn. We might need to try different ways to get our mulch to its destination, but if we persist, we will succeed and be stronger than we ever imagined. Sometimes we may have to take shelter when the storm becomes too strong, but even though the storm may continue, it's intensity will change over time if we are patient. I know as we hang in there/continue to work through the rain, we will find many hidden beauties and treasures we never would have found had we not stepped out into the storm.
"Life isn't waiting for the storm to pass. It's learning to dance in the rain." It's still my favorite saying, but it's meaning is changed forever in my heart.