Nature-inspired Meditation

It’s Season in south Florida and for me that means teaching a lot of different writing workshops. I enjoy it but life becomes quite hectic.  One of my favorite ways to begin the day is to slip outside while the coffee’s brewing. I have an incredible view of a pond surrounded by greenery—trees, shrubs, and tropical vegetation—and a multitude of wildlife. The sun rises in the front of the building and I’m able to watch as it slowly illuminates the pine trees just beyond my lanai.

Squirrels play tag in the trees, causing the scales of pine bark to crackle and the needles to rustle as they bounce from branch to branch. Meanwhile birds sing and call as egrets and Louisiana heron stalk fish in the pond. I’m grateful for this natural serenade and beauty of dawn.

Once my coffee is ready, I sip it as I listen and watch, allowing my mind to ponder the drape of the long white pine needles or the patterns in the fanned palmetto fronds. It’s sort of a meditation, this routine; a quiet but energizing start to my day. It’s a luxury now, but one I can indulge more frequently during the summer. After this ritual, I’m ready to put pen to paper as I record in my journal the day’s beginning and then turn to filling a blank screen with words.

Watching Wild Life

I absolutely love my condo! It’s bright and sunny so I never need to turn on lights during the day. It faces northeast so I receive sun both morning sun (in the front where my office is) and evening sun (in back.) My favorite part of a “writing day,” meaning I’m home working on projects, is eating breakfast on the lanai.

Breakfast includes entertainment. I get to watch the activity on the 2nd tee-off for the golf course in this community. Most of the time this is simply the squirrels in the white pines and palmettos. Often it includes a variety of waterbirds in the pond. Sometimes it even includes golfers and their colorful language that drifts across the fairway. (During season it’s often quite entertaining! More than a few times I’ve held my breath expecting a serious slice off the tee to hit the building, but the tall trees protected it.)

So, I’ve been wondering: how is it that so much wildlife survives on this golf course? I’m glad it does, because it means the course doesn’t use as many chemicals as others in this area. The egrets, heron, turtles, and–yes, even the the bats–inspire me. And I’m relieved to see that the crushed concrete they added two summer ago to edge the pond didn’t kill the turtles after all.

Now, if only we could do something about those wild golfers.

Messages from Nature

Nature centers me. It always has; I recall spending summer afternoons gazing at the clouds, looking for images as they slowly billowed and rolled across the sky or traipsing through fields investigating bugs and plants up close. So, spending a few minutes watching the leaves blow or an anhinga drying itself at the pond resets my internal frenzy to “calm.”

This morning I came eye-to-eye with a morning dove as it clung to the screen on my lanai. It remained there even when I moved closer to the screen. I could see the unique coloring of its feathers and imagine how soft they’d feel. What an amazing gift to watch it up-close for close to five minutes!

Last week I came face-to-face with a rabbit as I was leaving for campus. I’ve seen a hare across the fairway at dusk and watch a variety of birds and squirrels from my lanai each day, but I’ve never seen a rabbit.

I was amazed that it didn’t hop away, startled when I emerged from the stairwell. Instead, it startled me. It did hop about three feet toward a hedge, then continued cleaning itself, much as my cats used to do. Was it someone’s pet, set loose on the golf course that winds among the condos and villas around here? It seemed so tame, too used to a human infringing on its morning routine.

Wanting to observe it, I wandered around to the other side of the hedge and watched it. It paused to look at me but quickly continued grooming, exactly as my cats would have done.

My mood was lightened by this encounter, since I don’t have time to enjoy coffee on the lanai while watching wildlife on the days I teach College Writing Skills. Then I recalled about a month ago when one of the writers in my critique group brought a novel that caused our conversation to turn to animal totems. Where these wildlife run-ins simply a way to connect with nature? Or is there a message for deeper meaning behind them?

I’ve heard that air animal totems are supposed to be “winks from God” which is why many people report seeing a unique bird or white dove visiting them after the loss of a loved one. I felt encouraged by the visit from this morning dove. But what message might this rabbit be trying to send me? Why hadn’t it hopped away? Aren’t rabbits as skittish as squirrels? Instead, I was the one startled.

I considered this as I drove to campus. Life lately has been intense and ultra busy; season generally provides a full schedule but this year was busier than usual. Perhaps I’m supposed to slow down and trust my gut, like the rabbit; no need to flee unless there’s danger. On the tails of that schedule the summer is promising to be filled with family events and positive news. (One of my books is finally making it to print and I’m looking forward to an upcoming conference when I’ll get to see a good friend.) Maybe a sense of peace, anticipation, and celebration is what these creatures were trying to tell. That sounds like a good story to believe in. I’ll trust in it.