Winter Rhapsody: a meditation by David Rickey
How to savor lasting impressions of beauty in the present moment
|DAVID RICKEY — I am sitting by the window listening to a recording of Le Tombeau de Couperin, by Maurice Ravel, performed by Pascal Rogé. Ravel was one of the great French impressionist composers. The music lends itself to drifting in thought, and. . .well . . .impressions.
I gaze out the window, seeing the bare trees of winter outlined against the flat grey sky. I see the mottled brown crumpled leaves lying dead on the newly green grass. And I see a robin perched on a branch, perhaps looking for a worm to emerge from the cold, damp earth. This season, especially in California, is such a wonderful mixture of color and dullness, life and death.
And it is all good.
My mother used to refer to this time of year as the “down hill road to Spring”. But that was because we lived in Western New York state and we were getting tired of the snow and ice. Out here it’s different. No snow, but grey days interrupted by deliriously blue skies. Bare trees and dead leaves, but almost too vibrantly green grass emerging on the hills of Sonoma along 101.
A beauty for all seasons
To reverse Ecclesiastes, “To every Season, there is a thing”, a beauty and uniqueness that can lift the spirits and gladden the heart. One only has to look, gather the impressions all around, and let them play in your mind’s eye.
Byron Katie teaches us to “love what is”, which means finding a beauty in the reality of life and of all creation, discovering a such-ness that just IS. Our minds tend to judge and make distinctions: the grey sky is dull, the blue sky is dazzling. When in fact both just are and have their own beauty and rightness.
The sky forms a backdrop for the fractal design of trees – trunks and thick branches giving way (and support) to smaller branches and then finely-tipped twigs. The green of the grass offsetting the brown of the dead leaves. The worm giving nutrition to the robin, while it also aerates the soil. Even the child raking the leaves, only to be rewarded by jumping into the pile. And the smells!
Such is life, and how wonderful that is. To every season there is a quality, a richness, a living “Is-ness.”
Lasting impressions of beauty
Ravel wrote Le Tombeau partly in homage to the great Baroque French composer, François Couperin, but he brought to it his own unique impressionist style. So what we hear isn’t “old” but quite new and refreshing. Our lives, too, honor and reflect the “old”, but each moment can bring something fresh and new. We honor the loss of what has been, by being present with that memory in the present moment.
The past is a backdrop to the Now. The past informs our experience now but shouldn’t determine it. Learning to receive each impression with a freshness and present clarity that it demands, because it is only now; this is what brings joy and peace.
Delighting in what ever is here now, not wishing it were different, because it isn’t and won’t be anything other than what is. This allows a lightness and a delighting in each moment.
Winter isn’t a downhill road to anything.
David Rickey is an Episcopal priest, Soul’s Code co-founder and counselor in San Francisco who does a weekly ministry at a residence for the elderly in northern California. Follow David on Twitter.