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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is warning.

Sometimes in moments of acute frustration, I find myself wishing fervently for an external, clear path to follow. I wish for a path or a system that could tell me exactly what choices to make and how to achieve that elusive goal, success. That path would have road signs that point, “You are here. This is how you get there.” It might even be handy to have a red warning light on my forehead that could predict, “Danger! Danger!” in a no-fooling, mechanical voice.

Usually, though, I am counting on the belief that trusting my Inner Guidance is an art that can be learned and depended upon for all of my life choices. It is the art of Listening, augmented by the ability to pay attention to, and learn from, the outcomes of my choices. When I am not in a fearful (or frustrated) state, I remember that human beings are bodies and souls. Such a dual journey may well be more about the Soul’s journey than it is about the status, resume, or bank account growth. It may be that the acquisition of property, success and external perfection are not what we are really here for…not the Purpose of a life. If it’s not for external achievement, then what are we here for?

Surely Leonard Cohen was alluding to the true purpose when he wrote, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (“Anthem” lyrics from the album, “The Future”)

Mary Oliver, in her poem, “Wild Geese”, said this another way,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Let us remind ourselves: we are already the goal. There is nowhere to get to, nothing to achieve that will make us more perfect, more successful than the miracle that we already are. When we realize this, we bring the joy and peace of that understanding to everything external that we do. “Success” takes on a whole new meaning…

 

“Danger” (watercolor, gouache, pencil, pen & ink)

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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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