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On the Second Day of Summer

On the second evening of summer, from here at my desk and with the house all closed up against the heat, I could hear cicadas singing. I love them. I love them very much and as far as I had observed, this was their first chorus of the summer. I usually try to also notice their last song of the summer, but I’ve never yet been successful at that.

I stepped outside to my narrow balcony and they settled back down, as they do. Birds were carrying on and at the back of the yard, the barred owl took up calling. My neighbors were playing fiddle and guitar. And then, in the distance, I could hear the barred owl’s mate answering the call. As I turned my head in the hope of seeing it, I saw the tiniest sliver of a crescent moon in the Western sky. It must have risen very early. Next, a couple of fireflies lit and the cicadas made a false start at singing again.

Well, I don’t know that I need to say that I just stood there against the railing shaking my head and smiling in wonderment. I mean, wouldn’t you? One loveliness after another within a span of five minutes. Oh sure, these are all small things. The hum of life. The music of summer. The little pretties. All these things that make my heart glad.

I want to be that person who needs nothing more than these small things, ever. I want to to be the one who lets all grievances and petty irritations flutter on by. I want to remain unruffled by whatever little thises and thats wave in my face, trying to get a rise out of me. I want the kind of equanimity that keeps me sailing smoothly along, moment to moment, past the moments of beauty, all the way through the other decidedly not beautiful ones.

I do have equanimity sometimes. There are definitely moments, minutes, even hours or days when these small things are enough. I had no petty grievances right then, that evening. I am unruffled at times. And shouldn’t that be enough then, along with the cicadas, the owls, the crescent moon, the fireflies, the music? Just right then? No one is unruffled always. No one is consistently possessed of equanimity, not even the Dalai Lama. Where would the passion be? The life! The humanity.

So, since we are humans, these small moments of beauty and of contentment, brief or lasting, simply have to be enough. They are the gifts. And then we bumble along through the rest and we wait patiently for the next round of gifts that truly do come. And polite as we are, we say, “Thank you.”

“While getting lost in all those little things that seem so important, don’t forget the little things that matter . . .”― Virginia Alison

“The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things . . . the trivial pleasure like cooking, one’s home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard.” ― Barbara Pym, Less Than Angels

“I live to enjoy life by the littlest things . . . Just the feeling itself of being alive, the absolute amazing fact that we are here right now, breathing, thinking, doing.” ― Marigold Wellington

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Full Moon

In the middle of the ocean of sky sat

that unflappable moon full as a peach.

I dreamed it was surrounded by great

elliptical rings like the rings of Saturn.

Everyone even the nightingale even

the crying babies hushed as whole

towns fell silent watching.

Fireflies left off their flashing.

Stars quietly turned off their lights.

Clouds flung themselves away.

As if on cue a drift of wisdom

settled upon the heads of All

like soft felt hats.