First, Holly and I want to thank you for being our first wave of correspondents! Welcome to The Pen and the Bell. We look forward to getting to know you through your writing practice.
Today’s letter comes courtesy of our cover artist, Jim Ballard. Jim is a multi-talented man: he paints, writes poetry, sculpts, practices the flower art of Ikebana, and loves birding. He wrote to us after receiving his copy of The Pen and the Bell:
“The other day I was feeling depressed, not wanting to do anything, even turned down an opportunity to go birding with my wife and a neighboring couple who are avid birders. They cheerily drove off and I stayed behind, feeling a bit sorry for myself but really not wanting to be near anyone. I thought of your suggestion to “bow” to whatever is happening at the moment.
I walked into my backyard and, feeling a bit foolish, bowed to what was around me, my blossoming cherry trees, the just-planted- with- snap peas raised beds, the hanging bird feeder a few feet in front of me. I felt miserable, but I bowed to these things. I then just stood there and waited. Not really for anything to happen, but just waited.
Blossoms started floating from the cherry trees and fell at my feet. A chickadee sang its name shrilly because I was too close to her feeder, so I backed off a bit. I heard something, a commotion in my neighbor’s yard, just beyond the raised beds. I watched as a Cooper’s hawk flew from a branch and headed my way, moving so fast my thinking couldn’t keep up with its speed. It flew directly in front of me, so close (if I’d had the presence of mind) I could have touched its wings as it flew by! He landed in a pear tree about fifteen feet away. He perched on a limb and tilted his head back and forth, looking in my direction. He then flew away and landed in an apple tree in another neighbor’s yard and finally sailed off outside of my view.
I had been feeling sorry for myself a couple of minutes earlier — missed a great birding trip, would be traveling to a new, unexplored place — but I took the time to bow to what WAS there: the backyard, the cherry trees, the feeder, even to my depressed state of mind. That in itself would have been enough, but the moment exploded with a newness that startled me. Watching the hawk fly towards me and by me, moved me out of my cheerlessness and into awe.”
What a beautiful letter! And an excellent reminder that we can always bow to what IS, no matter what is happening within or around us. Such an expression can be transformative.
So, just for today, what can you bow to? Look around: what’s right in front of you? And can you possibly bow to what is difficult within you?
Write for just 15 minutes about bowing: when have you bowed before? Was it a positive or negative experience? How does it feel to bow in the present? Think about all the different connotations of bowing: bowing after a performance, bowing in subservience, bowing in thankfulness.
As always, please feel free to share your writing in the comments section. Or if you’re shy about doing that, just share with us your thoughts about the practice.
May your day be filled with many opportunities for gratitude.