What a month! Volcanic ash spews from Iceland and shuts down air traffic in Europe and beyond, Goldman Sachs, perhaps the last Wall Street "icon" is charged by the SEC with fraud and deception on a grand scale, and the leadership of Poland perishes in a tragic airline crash.
Now a devastating oil slick may move beyond the Gulf Coast.
April felt, as Wordsworth reminds us, that "the world is too much with us."
We feel the need to seek shelter.
I recently had lunch with a new friend, a state health official who grew up on a small Nebraska farm. In talking about the turmoil of health care reform he said he often thinks of the calm of a shelter break. He recalled a childhood without air conditioning and hard, hot summers, and finding respite in the shade and calm of a natural windbreak provided by the barns. It was a place of cooler breezes, birds and wildlife and peace on a summer's day.
How can we find a shelter break in these days? Where is that calming place? How can we, in Jeffrey Immelt's words, "reset?" Or can we use the famous Windows "three finger salute" of Control/Alt/Delete and reboot our life?
May is a time of resurgence, rebirth and discovery. Life is renewed with little help from us beyond digging, planting and watering that new life. Complex beyond words, the season reminds us that we aren't in charge; that in its vastly detailed and infinitely varied ways simplicity brings us peace, a shelter of sorts from our worst and darkest selves. The season and the hope of respite through rest and shelter animates our growth, and lets us see Life up close. But we have to pause to clear the debris and clutter away to make time for it. And for ourselves.
In Roger Rosenblatt's moving memoir, Making Toast (New York, Harper Collins, 2010) he shares part of a graduation essay he wrote for his daughter, Amy, who dies from a rare, undetected heart condition twenty years later. In part he wishes: for her fierceness in battle, but urged her not to hang onto corrosive enmities. I wished her a love of work, predicting that it would have 'something to do with helping others.' I wished her protective solitudes, and worthy friends...I wished her the pleasure of an exchange of wit with a stranger, and moments of helpless hilarity. I wished her a place where she might see a stretch of sky. The essay ends with a promise never to let go. And he doesn't. Don't read the book on public transportation, for it will likely make you cry. I recommend it highly as a wise reminder of how life and time can get crazy on us, but how loss brings its own kind of shelter.
Last month I wrote of the power of friends, and what they teach us. My friend, Leslie Little is a strategy consultant and creator of a museum-quality, fine art book. Paris Icons, her first book, won three publishing awards and she has now been commissioned to create a private edition book for Georgetown University to be published in 2011.
Leslie had returned to her Omaha home from London to deal with a life-threatening illness. By following her dream to create Paris Icons struggling with major medical issues, Leslie has inspired all who know her and her journey defines personal courage. Little's vision was to develop a luxury imprint that captures the soul of places and brands and the company she founded, Icon Images Inc., is poised to take off. Only 2 years after completing her 6th surgery, Little is being feted on two continents as she returns as an entrepreneur and artist. This is one woman whose work and story inspires us all!
In Roger Rosenblatt's memoir of his daughter, and in Leslie's journey of creative healing and discovery, we are reminded that Spring is about rebirth. With the loss of growth in winter we can, if we choose, make a place of shelter and dedicate ourselves to slowing down, to take time to sort for what is important in our lives, to discover friends again, and to have more fun.
When the world assaults us, we can withdraw. Yet, we must still return, like Spring, and grow deeper roots of connection, pay more attention to the sunlight of friendship, and find more zest for the places in our life where new growth can occur.
We must pause, reset, and begin anew.