Monday, September 20, 2010

Why Wait? The Gate's Always Open

"The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck."
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

It's been a busy week since I last wrote:  days filled with destinations and duties, plans and problems to solve, a seemingly endless internal "To Do" list.  And at the end of each day, I'd think: "I haven't written for awhile.  I should do that".  But just as the sprite who wanted to scribble would whisper in one of my ears, the laggard who just wanted to lay around would groan back in the other:  "You're too tired.  You've worked so hard - take a break.  Besides, you don't have anything to say.  Just wait until you feel inspired."

Just wait until you feel inspired.

And I began to think.  How much time have I spent waiting for Life to happen?  Waiting for an answer?  Waiting for the "right person" to appear?  Waiting for what I wanted to be handed to me by luck or circumstance?  Waiting for what I was suffering through to pass?  Waiting for "the coast to be clear" before I acted?  Waiting for an idea, inspiration, insight to be left on my doorstep by some celestial UPS angel (I wonder if he'd wear brown shorts and drive a step-van too!), labeled "Special Delivery - for Jon Schnorenberg?

Slowly, my thoughts reminded me of a rare pearl of a lesson that I have learned over the years, but often forget.

Prudence has its value.  Practicing patience, letting life's rhythms lead me where they may, can be pleasant and sometimes rewarding.

But waiting did not bring me all those things in my life today that I love dearly.

Love requires action.  Passion requires an advance payment:  the willingness to take a risk.  Only when I was willing to take the first step - to "walk through the gate" into the unknown, towards what I loved - was I ever genuinely rewarded.

That's what I had to do when I moved to southern Oregon to pursue a coaching career.
That's what I had to do when that career ended unhappily, and I struggled to regain my confidence and find a new passion to pursue.

That's what I had to do in order to meet the woman who would become my partner, my best friend, my biggest fan, my soulmate, the love of my my wife, Deborah.  And because of that, the last five years of my life have been my happiest...

That's what I had to do when I began this expedition into the "blogosphere" a month ago.

That's what I had to do tonight to light the inner candle of inspiration.

Like Indiana Jones teetering above the abyss, I had to "close my eyes", stick my foot out, and take the first step - out into the unknown.  And see what I would discover.

"Do or do not...there is no try." (Yoda)

That's a good thing for me to remember.  Life's always showing me the gates, and inviting me in to a new world.  Why not just take the step?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Love Sundays

"Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week." (Joseph Addison)

I love my Sundays, especially one like today.  Sundays are a day full of all kinds of pleasures:

-Sleeping in...rising slowly, stretching lanquidly as I leave the warm bed.
-Savoring a 2nd cup of coffee; drinking it just for the warm, comforting taste - and not because I need to get "revved up" to face a room of teenagers!
-Leafing through a big, fat Sunday newspaper...filled with ads I can nonchalantly discard, on my way to the colorful comics or the Travel section, with its alluring articles on faraway "wonderlands"...
-Spending the morning at Sunday class; having my heart lifted by the beautiful music from our choir, and my mind stretched by a new truth seen in Guy's talk.
-Sunday brunch!  I can't wait to come home and have eggs, bacon, name it...anything but the usual "sensible" weekday fare of granola, oatmeal, and eating "what's good for me".
-Slow, Sweet, Sunny Sunday afternoons...spent doing whatever I want.  Today I spent it working outside in the yards.  I began by feeding plants, trimming flowers, and mowing the lawn.  But then the "Macho Olympics" began:  Dragging out the leaf blower and making a "man-ly" racket, blowing stuff;  playing "lumberjack" (with my wife nervously watching!) and trimming some big branches off trees; visiting the local tool/garden store and buying some dirt and barkdust to spread around  What better way to enjoy a beautiful September afternoon!
And then best of all...quietly sitting on my back porch...and taking it all in...sharing the beauty, with my wife.  And talking, and laughing, and each singing songs to the only audience that would applaud us...
I enjoy Sundays so much, that I never want them to end.  I stay up way too late, like a little kid thinking that if I can just keep my eyes open forever, tomorrow will never come.  But Mondays always come knocking, like a stern English governess.  "All right, Mr. Jonathan - up you go!  Put your work clothes on.  Time to be sensible and quit dilly-dallying!  Tsk, tsk - did you do your homework?  We have serious, adult, working things to do!  No pouting allowed!"
I love my Sundays.  And I'm even learning to accept the "Sunday night governess" that nags me.  I can't enjoy another new weekend until this one ends.  Though I want to hold on greedily to each sweet Sunday moment, I sigh...and smile...and let the evening gently slip away...knowing that I will savor the next weekend's return even more, after wading through a week of work.  All new beginnings require first an ending, even good times and weekends.
So, ala Doc, Happy, and Bashful...but not Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, or Grumpy...
"Hi, Ho, Hi's off to work I go"...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nature's "Reality Show"...

"Some people walk in the rain; others just get wet." (Roger Miller)

It's evening; first day back to school done.  It was a good day; filled with new faces (mostly excited!) and lots and lots of energy. (The first enterprising "21st century Edison" that could figure out how to harness the concentrated energies of 1800+ teenagers, crammed into our 19 acre campus, could probably light several nearby homes - and make a million bucks!)... And it's this energy, that keeps me "young"...

I wanted to try to write something shorter tonight - just so I'll keep writing - even on "school nights"...don't just leave the exploring for those longer, quieter times that the summer was full of, but are now passed...

So, I sat quietly...and listened...and waited...and this is what came...

Raindrops walk across my roof
Sometimes lightly tip-toeing, giggling as they go.
Sometimes boldly bouncing, doing a jig.

Tickling my ears,
Splashing on my soul,
Coolly washing the day's cares away,

Tumbling from sky to branch, from branch to leaf,
A flip and a twist - from leaf to the ground,
A thousand evening gymnasts gently landing,
Making me smile, and my heart applauds.

But in order to enjoy this performance,

To hear the giggling and dance with the drops,
To be dazzled by the daredevil performance,
To let it wash over and refresh me,

One thing only is required
As my price of admission.

Be still.
And let it all fall into a quiet pond.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Summer's Simple Treasures

"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart." (Celia Thaxter)

It's the Sunday night before Labor Day; the last "official" day of summer.  September and the approaching days of autumn - whose chilly mornings nip your nose, and crunchy leaves tickle your toes - seem well on their way.  Women are busy changing purses, shoes, and dresses - "no white after Labor Day", you know.  I've never understood this fashion fiat, and I'm sure if I asked my wife to explain it, she'd just shake her head and laugh at my perpetual lack of fashion sense ("Eddie Bauer" is the only "style chromosome" that God gave me!)

And I'm sure there are youngsters moping and mourning the impending opening of school...(teachers too!)...the end of "freedom"...the return to the regimen...the "horrors of homework" (and having to grade it!)...Shorts and sandals slipped away...sweaters and heavy shoes hauled out...Heavy sighs...

But I decided to take a moment to remember, and celebrate, the many things I've enjoyed this summer.  So what might some of "Summer's simple treasures" be?  As I think back on my days, these are what I remember:
  • Early mornings in the first cup of coffee and my morning paper...gently awakening as the sun rises...what a luxury!
  • Mid-morning walks with our spunky little chihuahua Izzy.  Each day she'd be so EXCITED to go for her walk, that just the SOUND of me putting my socks on would send her into a tizzy!
  • The satisfaction I'd get out of the yardwork I'd do.  Whether it was spreading barkdust, fussing over our roses, or hacking out behemoth bushes to make way for a new palette of posies, I always enjoy the physical labor of making our house, our "home". (I guess I have a "sodbuster gene" too!)
  • Seeing the first shy morning glory poke its head out and greet the day.
  • Savoring all of summer's fresh produce!  All hail to ruby red strawberries; blueberries and plums so sweet they make you sing; cherry tomatoes that go "pop!" in your mouth; cucumbers and onions, that in a salad (with a little vinegar and sugar) make a perfect marriage; and the "royalty" of summer herbs, King Basil and Queen Cilantro!
  • Self-serve frozen yogurt!  (No need for the "little man" cup; Fill 'er up to the brim!)
  • Smelling hamburgers cooking on a BBQ...anywhere within 3 miles!...
  • OK...Gotta get off this food obsession (don't know how I manage to keep my "boyish" figure, but I do!)
  • The unexpected pleasures shared with my wife this summer - unexpected, only because of their simplicity.  Miles and miles of walks taken together: in the pine-scented woods around Lake Tahoe; evening walks in the surf there, holding hands, talking and laughing; along the boardwalk at Redondo Beach; drifting on a catamaran with her on her birthday, with a grin as big as the sun on my face; watching the sunset together at Palos Verdes beach; enjoying the sun and summer breezes found in the quiet summer haven we call our backyard... All of these, and so many more, are the stitches of love that sew us closer together...all so precious, to me...
Just in recounting these few simple pleasures, I'm reminded of how blessed I've been - how lucky a man I am.  There is beauty and joy in my life, and as long as I remember that, it can always "be summer", even after Labor Day (though you won't catch me wearing white!)...

Deborah and I cata-maraning for her birthday on Lake Tahoe
Bon soir! (a little more French I know!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Pssst...A Divine Whisper?"

"Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

It's evening - the end of a very, very busy day - and I'm tired.  It's a warm night, the air sticky and still, so a lazy voice inside of me whines, "It's too hot to write.  Besides, you've got nothing to say.  Let's not think - who wants to work that hard!".  But I'm trying to listen to that other voice, small and gentle - whispering, not whining - that nudges me and says, "C'mon - let's write.  Who knows what we may discover!"... And I'm learning to trust that voice more than the whiner...

My day was full of meetings today.  Wall-to-wall, 7 hours of moving from one room to another, having 60 minutes of information thrown at me in 1/2 the time by well-meaning, but highly stressed and overworked, administrators and teachers, then rush someplace else, and repeat - all so someone, somewhere with a clipboard can say "Check!  We covered that!"  I did my best to stay alert and positive (Wish I could say the same about many colleagues - why is it that teachers are the worst example of students??) but by the end of the day, I was drained.  And I was left wondering, "How was this productive?  How can anyone get anything done, like this?"

But in all of this hubbub, I could see a subtler, more valuable truth... a pearl behind the swirling, churning eddies of my busy day. 

The truth is that that same world that I passed through - loud, noisy, hectic, "Gotta get it done now or else!" - and chafed at, is really the same world I swim in, internally, most of the time.  The only difference is I resent it when "others" are "yakking" at me, telling me "useless things", but I tolerate it when MY mind does the same thing to ME. 

Don't believe me?  Just try noticing how often you're "stuck in a meeting" with yourself - having an interior dialogue - full of "To Do Lists", judgments, Plan A's, Plan B's, whines, complaints, dreams about being on a sandy beach, witty remarks (that really aren't), the same boring conversations, ad nauseum.  And we usually call this "being productive" or "a good day", as we rush to fill the empty spots, finish the unpleasant, and flee to a future peace!

Here's a better idea.  Take a breath.  Slow down.  Find some stillness.

It was only as I dared to sit quietly here - to step out of the rushing waters of my thoughts - that something truly productive happened.  That something higher, richer, more genuine was able to whisper to me - and I was willing to listen.

Be still.  Relax.  Wait to hear something else other than the usual din.

If you do, like me, you might be surprised at the gift that Life has left for you there in the silence.