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Holding Eternity in the Palm of Your Hand

The artist and poet William Blake, who lived i...
The artist and poet William Blake, who lived in Hercules Road — a portrait by Thomas Phillips (1807)

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” ~William Blake~

My husband emailed me this William Blake quote this morning. We had been talking on our walk yesterday about Steindl-Rast’s view of prayer; how prayer is not just the humble mutterings of a longing heart, but unfolds itself in our ability to be truly in the moment of the life one is living; to see that there is giving and receiving in all of creation, in all actions. Both Blake and Steindle-Rast were writing about wholeness and they were talking about living prayer.

To contemplate the wholeness, connectedness and the oneness of life in a world that seems so fractured is not an easy asking. I have melt downs from time to time; overwhelms that cause me to withdraw and doubt; and then just like Persephone, I ascend again into spring. Much of my personal suffering has come from not honoring what is a natural ebb and flow in the grand scheme of things; from thinking that I should have arrived somewhere by now where there is no struggle, even while nature struggles all around me.  For all of us, what I believe is true, is that we are never as broken as we think.

Just on the horizon, eternity waits, and still the focus of life can become so much about petty concerns: who ticked you off, who you like and don’t like, the demands of earning a living, the traffic. The mediocrity of the world tugs at my sleeve, and like a dog that hears kibble being poured into its dish, I run toward the sound of it. It is easy to be caught up in the seeming importance of those things.  There is a silence between the notes of life’s song.  Is wholeness born of that quiet that causes us to linger upon a crocus pushing up through the cold soil of winter into spring? Life is so fast, too immediate and the rush to “get it all done” creates a forgetfulness of slow that seems the root of despair.

Those of us who become temporarily lost should get t-shirts to wear that say “Temporarily out of service.” That’s how I have felt the past few months, just temporarily out of service, but as in Blake’s quote, I began to see through the narrow chinks of my cavern. The heart opens and closes, opens and closes until one day it just blooms, and for a while you are in a garden. I say for a while because there is no destination point for awakening or awareness– it is unfolding until death. That’s what I am trying to learn right now—no destination point, just a constant process. Funny how I think that the rest of the world has this wired, but I know that you don’t have to scratch the surface too deep to see that we all suffer.

Healing lies in awakening from a life where everything is taken for granted. That’s the life-line for pulling oneself up from the sorrows and challenges that can paralyze. To live so fully, so mindfully in the moment that everything becomes a prayer; to count and name the blessings of each day and allow the heart to fill with gratitude. This is the balm for the “temporarily out of service.”

Today I am grateful to have a husband that emails me quotes by William Blake; to walk with a goofy yellow lab who knows joy and love most of the time; to have some quiet time in the morning to write my thoughts and send them out into the world; for hot black tea with honey; for a blue sky and the promise of 60 degrees this March day.  I am grateful for the inspiration of William Blake and I am grateful for my life.


Novelist, essayist, blogger, wife, dog-mommy, dancer, dreamer, grateful.

6 thoughts on “Holding Eternity in the Palm of Your Hand

  1. Today was the perfect day for me to read this. I’ve been fighting a bug since yesterday and don’t do being alone very well. I dwell on ‘petty concerns’ and lose focus of everything good in my life. It’s these times that I really have to remember the famous ‘how you look at the glass’ cliche.

    The beauty of your blog is that it reminds me that this must be a very human condition because I hear it too often. When there should be nothing to be concerned about, I tend to conjure something up. I will remember that I’m “temporarily out of service” next time. For now, I’m just being. xoxoxo

    1. Maybe we need a “temporarily disconnected,” too so that we take some quiet time for ourselves. 😉 Hugs.

  2. Hello Stephanie.
    I had a dog, whom I loved so much that he is to me still the benchmark for a good life.

    He died young, hit by a cattletruck, and yet he lives in the fond memories of everyone who knew him. It’s not hard to get those who knew him to talk about him and his deeds, of loyalty and happiness and his endless joy in the moment. He was hunter, father, sharer of golden moments, doctor, guardian, prankster, warrior and friend.

    Defender of the realm, and slayer of dragons. No, really! We lived on a river near the edge of town in a northern part of Australia, and in the surrounding unspoiled land there were goannas, huge lizards sometimes more than 2m in size (6′). They don’t intentionally hurt people but if you startle one it will run up the nearest tree. In their panic they sometimes run up the nearest person. Since they are heavy and clawed, this is not a pleasant experience.

    They aren’t very bright, but they’re big, very fast, strong and well armoured. He thought they were wonderful sport. It helped that he was so fast he could pluck a sparrow from the air, or a mouse from the long grass. So smart that when an echidna (similar to a hedgehog) curled into a spiny ball, he rolled it home to wait it out. So silent that he didn’t chase cats, he stalked them. And it is a remarkable insight that when a cat slashes your nose, instead of stepping back and losing half your nose, you step forward and make the kill. What incredible self-possession!

    He was also handsome. Svelte, lean with a brown-gold coat that gleamed over rippling muscle, an athlete, a warrior. The first time he was hit by a car, we took him to the vet to be put down, and the next morning they called us to collect our dog, who made a lot of friends but was a bit of a handful. Apparently they gave him the sedatives supposed to ease him out of this world, and he reacted by getting a good night’s sleep.

    The years passed. And then he was gone.

    I loved him. I remember him. Sometimes he visits my sleep, defending me from vague threats that lurk in shadow. I haven’t had a nightmare in a long time. What is there to fear when you have the love of dog?

    Yet I worry: who will remember his courage, his loyalty, his handsome beauty and his indomitable might, when I am gone?

  3. Your blog speaks directly to my heart. I too am grateful for a husband who reads passages to me. Just yesterday, he read to me from The Great Gatsby” a beautiful passage filled with longing and sadness but beautiful all the same. I think all beauty is a light, even beauty tinged with sadness.
    I am new writing on my blog but your blog gives me a signpost to follow.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. “The Great Gatsby” is still a favorite of mine. One year at Halloween (in a long ago youth) I dressed up as Zelda Fitzgerald, the late F. Scott’s wife. It was a fun role. And yes, yes, yes all beauty is a light and sometime the sorrow of that, the horrible beauty of that makes greater the illumination upon the path. Have fun and some gnashing of teeth with your new blog… 😉

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