Mother Earth’s belly will soon be the resting place for my garden. As the cold season comes plants seek her protection. I will miss my garden’s exuberant summer self. But, I can easily re-create it in my mind’s eye. Well, the surface of it, that is.
Its underground life is a mystery to me.
I can only speculate what it looks like a few inches down. Honeysuckle roots tangle around those of the pink climbing rose. The Korean Spice bush has a Spider Wart plant at its feet. The soil holding them is likely a mass of fibrous fingers digging into the dirt. Beneath the manicured surface there is a confusion of stringy roots. An essential part of my garden’s life is unknown to me.
The same is true with people in my life. Mostly, I only see their surface. But occasionally, I glimpse deeper levels. Forgetting this limited view has harmful consequences. It allows me to miss the complexity of others. Even Don, whom I’ve known for more than a half century, has aspects I will never fully see. Believing that I know him completely is a disservice.
Aren’t we all still learning things about ourselves? Then why do we think we can know others completely? Often what we see are just ideas of who we think they are.
This is what I meant when I wrote in Unfolding…
“We look at loved ones and don’t notice the subtle changes that wash over their faces in a conversation. We glance in the mirror without really seeing ourselves. We miss so much of life by sorting our experience without savoring it. If we ever realized the impact of this, we’d be overcome with grief.”
Stories of a grandfather’s helpfulness and the sweet kisses of a mother for her adult son brought tears to my eyes during two recent memorial services. Tender moments like these open our hearts. Looking deeper we see into the souls of each other. The morning after one memorial service, Don said goodbye and then paused an extra long moment to look at me. I said, What are you looking at? He replied, “I want to really see you before we say goodbye.” Don’s tender words are still with me.
Memorial services remind us of the importance of looking deeper. Truly valuable moments usually appear when we slow down. Offering or receiving a kind glance, touch or comment can sustain us for hours, even days.
Looking deeper does take time. But not that much time. Dr. John Gottman, the relationship guru says that how we say good-bye and hello to each other is the bedrock of a loving relationship. He says two minutes will cover it. That is two in the morning and two when we reunite for a total of 20 minutes a week. That isn’t much time.
Life’s mysteries lie under the surface of our everyday lives. They wait beneath the urgency of a text message or the persistent beeping phone. Looking deeper we appreciate that there is more to know about others and ourselves. We discover that there is a difference between a fast life and a full life.
The first is about speed and the second is about soul.
Which is most important?