“Often finding meaning is not about doing thing differently; it is about seeing familiar things in new ways.” Rachel Naomi Remen
This quote came to mind after a news alert about toxic algae caught my eye. It was a story about a certain type of brightly colored algae that grows in warm water lakes and looks colorful and lovely, but in fact is a deadly toxin. As this news story that my hubby and I were watching ended, our eyes turned from our TV set to a beautiful water feature we have in our backyard.
Some months back, bright orange and green fingers of moss began to stretch across the five large rocks that comprise our fountain. Being homebound nearly 24/7 like the rest of humanity and spending lots of time in our backyard, we were daily observers of this moss. At first, we really paid attention to how it was growing, and it really was delicate and pretty. But after a few weeks, we no longer noticed the details of the growth. Since we had jointly decided early on that it was “pretty,” in our minds, it simply remained that way.
After watching the news show about the vivid yet deadly algae, we walked out to the back yard to look at our own brightly colored growth. It sounds silly to say, but we were both more than a little surprised to see that now that we were taking a moment to look with new eyes. It was no longer brightly colored. What covered our rocks looked more like the ugly remnants of a green drink that sits at the bottom of your smoothie cup, for three days, in a hot car. In other words, it was disgusting.
The next day my husband got out the power washer, pulled on some rubber gloves, and off came the moss. Chunk by chunk, it fell onto the ground, looking bad and smelling even worse. The cleaning of those rocks may have just felt like a day-long honey-do to my hubby, but I took some time to ponder what nature was teaching.
Considering The Lesson
Mental constructs can be very binding, and after we put them in place, we don’t always leave space for them to change and grow. Once we decide something is “so” (like my hubby and I deciding months ago that the moss on our water feature was beautiful), continuing to look at our reality with eyes from the past often means we fail to register the truth of the present moment.
Fresh eyes are so important. When our vision becomes locked in place, regardless of what we look at, we see what we have always seen – and not always a different reality that may be forming before us. This is a lesson I teach time and time again when I help the grieving look beyond the dark cavern of loss and toward the light of healing. When we begin to “see” our loss and our place in the world after loss differently, a new horizon appears where only inky darkness was before.
The goings-on in our backyard (the moss that changed while our perception did not) has been a good reminder for me that the vision extension I help others reach for when dealing with matters of life and death is the same vision extension I need to be reaching for in my own every day ecosystem as well.