Saturday, September 19, 2009


Sitting in a floating house on the Willamette River recently, I was thinking about floating. Then watching the elegant glide of swans on the waters at Sun Valley this week, I was again thinking about floating. It's astounding, really, that a form with weight and substance can perch on the surface of a very permeable entity like water. Why doesn't gravity just pull floating forms toward earth's core?

Well, it's all about buoyancy, I learned. Archimedes discovered and articulated the principle centuries ago: "Any body wholly or partially immersed in a fluid experiences an upthrust equal to, but opposite in sense to, the weight of the fluid displaced." I learned that an object will sink in water if its density is greater than the density of water and will float if its density is less than water. Same thing with helium and hot air balloons: they rise when their contents (helium or heated air) are less dense than the surrounding air. That makes sense to me.

Thinking about floating and buoyancy made me think about life. Some folks I know are really buoyant, able to bob along over the turbulence of daily living, looking as serene as those Sun Valley swans. I think of my incredible uncle, taking in stride cancer, loss of his beloved bride after 60+ years together, cancer, and other health struggles. Buoyant, that's what he is. When you visit with him, he's vibrant, fun, and totally focused on making you feel you're one of the most important dignitaries he's ever met. He floats above life's trials, his density being more ethereal than that of those trials.

Buoyancy also makes me think of a stunning girl friend of mine. When her employer was shattered by devestating, demoralizing cuts and demands to reduce staffing, she was buoyant. She maintained her serenity, soothed her employees, and took a hard hit herself to minimize the impact of the cuts on them. Buoyant, that's what she is. When you visit with her, she's charismatic, beautiful, and totally focused on making your encounter extra special.

I try to be buoyant but it's not always easy. Sometimes I can just bob along over the swirling waters of tribulation, my eye on the goal, my body tuned into what must be done. I think I was like that while caring for my husband as his illness demanded its tithe. Caring for him became my life's work: it was essential that I remained serene and focused on his comfort. After he was gone, though, the buoyancy diminished. Getting through trials became more of a struggle and I fear I haven't always personified serenity.

Floating...making sure that my density is lighter than that of my something I'll keep working on. I like the idea of looking like a swan.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Inspired by my college friend Terry, who just celebrated her fourth blog anniversary, I decided to try it. It may be an ideal avenue for me to express the gratitude and awe I have for the gift of each day on this planet. Annie Dillard summed it up as she said that each day is a god. The sacred is available to us all in each second of the day. We only have to be open to it.

"Listen..." I told myself as I sat in my yard this morning. A killdeer circled round and round, fluting clear tones into this Sunday. What was she doing? Her young must be gone by now from the gravelled nest at the edge of the church parking lot. Was she bidding farewell to this safe haven? Was she hesitating to start her journey south?

Magpies squabbled down the street, their strident cries as bold as the stark opposites of their white and black feathers. Years ago magpies nested in a blue spruce in our yard. We loved having these noisy kids add to our place's symphony. A neighbor asked my husband to "get rid of those d---- birds" and he just shook his head. Nothing doing: they were among the others in our yard, deserving of our care. After avian flu hit magpie populations hard, it was wondrous to see them come back. Each flash of black/white was a spike of joy!

Canadian geese brayed in the distance and house sparrows chirped through the huge canopy of my ash tree. Sneaky starlings whistled, crooned, and panted through the neighborhood. Wish I liked them. I can share Virginia Woolf's awe of their ability to dance across the sky as a net of a thousand knots, but I hate it when they invade the flowering plum in front of my house. Yes, I discriminate against a species, yes.

My ears gifted me with the ring of my favorite fall bird: the flicker. I love the noisy declarations they make from power pole and tall tree. I didn't love the way they used to hammer at my shake roof...but when I hear flickers, I think that the year's best season is on its way!

Listening...listening to birds on a sunnied morning is a sacred gift. I wonder what the world must be like to my daughter's new dog, a rescued six year old who has most likely been deaf from birth. What is the world like without killdeer's flute, magpie's scrappy rattle, flicker's bold announcement that the earth is indeed turning? I cherish the gift that enters me through my ears.