As spring advances, familiar companions return, bird and blossom both. Morning sparkles with the ruby-crowned kinglet’s song, a sweet melody not heard for many long winter months. Shooting stars appear in pink and maroon, blazing in the green beginnings of grass. Purple larkspur pops up. A chipping sparrow perches on the fence rail just where he sat last year, his chestnut cap glinting copper in the new day’s sun.
The return of the migrants and flowers awakens my senses, each day holding a homecoming of those living beings who grace this land. I listen deeply, keep watch of my surrounds, breath in the sweet scent of the season. The beautiful familiar is experienced anew.
In contrast, the unfamiliar heightened my awareness in New Zealand, making all things significant –the growing, flying, crawling, living things; the great body of water that is the sea; the sky, stones, and mountain surrounds. All of it sparking attention and mindfulness.
In New Zealand, I took on Beginner’s Mind, as the new and unknown unfolded before me. I released habitual ways of thinking and opened my perspective. Sitting at the base of a giant Rimu tree draped with vines and scarlet rata blossoms, surrounded by clicks and croaks of the tui bird and the liquid tones of the bellbird, I soaked in life and found connection to a deeper meaning. Awake, aware, alive. All seemed vibrant.
With awareness, every day, every season, every landscape can hold beauty – or the memory of it. A forest devoid of bird song – the avian world plundered to extinction – or a war torn blood-filled field: both will stand forever as a reminder of what was, what is, and what could have been. Such places and events are another file to sharpen the senses, making the beauty and spirit of the earth even more precious. Holding Beginner’s Mind is to be open and aware, when the world with all of its beauty and loss is consciously absorbed.
As I write, a sapsucker – a woodpecker – traverses the trunk of the pine tree out the window, his bright red head rivaling the rata blossoms of New Zealand for brilliance. I pause to watch the bird pecking bugs from under the bark, the way he uses his tail to balance against the tree, how his head swings to knock his beak into the wood. The sapsucker is here year round, a common sight, a familiar companion – but I haven’t seen one for all those weeks I was in the southern hemisphere. And so I pause, watching him as if it were the first time, as he brings another bit of beauty to the day.