Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Waldo Emerson’

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is spent.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” (Robert Frost)

Lately, as parents pass on and friends my age show signs of illness and decline, I look in the mirror and see that my own body, too, is beginning to succumb to the inevitable outcome of the material dimension. I passed the Puer Aeternus stage quite a while back, (when everything seemed possible and I was invincible) but recently, I have begun to contemplate how, exactly, I have spent my brief time here on planet Earth. I see that I have no children to justify my years, no pension, no fortune, no fame. Perhaps no one will even remember me…almost certainly not in a hundred years. It is an odd feeling to notice one’s body winding down, and yet to feel the Spirit, the curiosity and enthusiasm for life only just now beginning to wake up and stretch out. Does it happen like this for everyone? Perhaps this is where those phrases about life being over “all too quickly” and “in the blink of an eye” come from?

One thing that I know for certain…I have not spent my life following the herd. Sometimes in darker moments, I wonder if that was wise. But if given the choices all over again, I most certainly would have made creativity, intellectual and spiritual curiosity, and relationship the highest priorities…far above security, money and social acceptance. That may not be everyone’s definition of a life well spent, but it has been mine. When I temporarily lose my way, I remember this quote:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Not Following” (pencil, watercolor, gouache)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is early.

Spring has hesitantly arrived here in Northern California. Storms and cold nights still hold sway, but sun and the sweet smell of flowers are challenging Winter’s tenacity. Weeds, flowers and grass love this cool, coastal weather… and it is easy to prefer it to ninety-degree days which will soon bake both soil and my little garden.

Recently, I learned that the flower is an evolutionary development… that plants did not always have them. Hard to imagine, and harder still it would be to live without their beauty. Today, I am thinking about how much I continue to learn about Life from the flowers…

The iris beneath my window blooms according to some inner clock, never striving to open even when her neighbor is already bursting forth in purple majesty. The tiny white blossoms of wild strawberry never give up in despair because they are a foot shorter than the irises, and only a plain white. The scrawny rose bushes tell me, without anger, that they are planted where they cannot thrive… and even the pattern of black spot disease on their leaves is beautiful. The roses bloom in spite of the inevitable arrival of hungry deer, just as the tiny magenta blossoms of some ‘weed’ carpet the ground faithfully until the day they will be mowed down for fire protection. Brilliant purple lavender flowers seem to delight in the attention of fat, busy bees, and the grape hyacinths continue to perfume the air even when no one stoops to sniff their astonishing fragrance. Yellow Scotch Broom flowers exuberantly show forth an enthusiasm for life… in spite of my neighbor’s hostile desire to chop them down.

Naturalists know that “the essence or inner spiritual quality of a plant…contains profound healing qualities which can truly nourish the human soul.” (Flower Essence Repertory, by Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz) A careful observer can learn much about life from any plant, but the genius of the flower is that it has learned to communicate Life’s wisdom simply by being its beautiful self. The language of beauty is universal, and flowers teach much through the deceptively simple means of color, fragrance, shape and texture.

Getting back to Illustration Friday word of the week…

Another word for early is premature. This is the word that comes to mind as I watch myself habitually judge the trajectory of my own life… something I am certain a flower never does. A flower would tell me that it is premature to say that my life is not a success… to conclude that I have failed to live up to expectations. A flower would  say that the standard definition of ‘success’ is based upon external and very shallow measurements. This all-too-human habit of judging myself (subtly encouraged in our consumer society) is one of the main reasons why I keep a collection of quotes. They remind me who I really am, and what I really am doing with this thing called My Life. I will leave you with one of these wise quotes, which should probably be tattooed on every person’s palm at birth.

“Success… to laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I dedicate this blog post to myself and my friends (you know who you are), who need to be gently reminded of this much higher, deeper and more real standard of Success. And I wish to encourage us all with this last quote from Rumi (who was surely a flower appreciator)…    “Unfold your own myth.”

“Manifestation” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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