The sun rises just early enough for me to get up at 6:00 a.m. and go out for my walk before the same sun heats the streets hot enough to bake my feet through my shoes. Seasons are subtle in Phoenix, but they will show themselves if you pay attention. Since the longest day we have lost an hour of daylight, which makes a real difference. Yes, our highs are still around 104 degrees F, (40ºC) and its still hot. But an hour of daylight makes a difference in the quality of the heat. The mornings are softer.
Softer mornings bring cactus flowers. Our fencepost cacti don’t bloom in the intense heat of mid-summer. Now, with nights that are very warm, but not meltingly so, the cactus is willing to bloom again. Many species of cacti bloom at night, and the fencepost is one of them.
The flowers are easy to miss, even though their blooms can be six inches (16.25 centimeters) across. Wake up too late, and they have closed and drooped. (You can see an example of a spent blossom right above the blossom in the photo on the right.) The flowers astonish with size and amazement; the fragrance is almost nonexistent. Bees, which can probably smell different fragrances than humans, love them.
What these generous beauties teach me, is that all glory is fleeting. “This too, shall pass,” we breathe when times are tough. But that phrase is true of all things in life. Good thing pass as well as bad. Happy days come to an end as quickly as sad ones. There is no “bad” emotion. We could not be happy if no sadness existed. How would we treasure the contrast? If every day were the same, with no ups and downs, we would long for them. Sometimes I think we create drama when our life is too steady, too common, too unruffled. We long for contrast.
This morning I realized that thoughts and emotions are just random neurons firing. Until we give them meaning. How much meaning we attach to an event defines the force of our emotions, and drives our reactions. We often imagine slights, hurts, and emotional damage much larger than a person watching would. I’ve started to ask myself the question, “How do I know that’s true?” when I feel slighted or hurt. Often, when I have to back up an emotion, I can feel myself churning up a rationalization. So the guy behind me who honked a millisecond after the light turned green is just in a hurry, he is not making a nasty comment about my age or the age of my car.
The guy at the genius bar at the Apple store was patronizing until I explained what I needed. Then he noticed . . . something. I don’t know what changed his bored appearance to one of interest. I can make up stuff–he heard me speaking in complete, well-sequenced sentences; he realized I looked like someone he liked; the problem was more interesting than some he had seen that day. Truth is, I don’t know. And I didn’t ask. I simply got the problem solved, thanked him, and left. That allowed room for gratitude; my computer was fixed and I was smiling.
The woman ahead of me in line at the grocery store had a tattoo on the back of her neck that was not only misspelled, but grammatically mangled. I could have thought she was ignorant, thought less of her as a human being. I could have thought that the tattoo artist made a mistake and deceived her by not telling her. Or that her friends don’t know grammar. What I really chose to think is that the tattoo is not mine and really doesn’t define her. Or me.
“This too, shall pass.” I’m going to concentrate on focusing more on what counts–the quality of work I offer, easing pain and suffering by helping people free their pain in poetry, creating classes for my clients. Because, not too long from now, that, too, will pass.