The Power in Letting Go

Meditations in Motion

I sat on the deck after my run today and had some lunch, a honey crisp apple, pretzels, and sharp cheddar. I am a grazer, I will be hungry again in three hours. I ran a little over three miles this morning with my hubby, a good run. My time was under 10 minutes/mile, getting closer to my pre-injury speed.

As I basked in the late-September sun, I realized there was a terrible racket going on all around me. Hundreds of starlings filled the trees and wires. They were agitated, unsettled. A few made brief forays into the air, twisting and diving, like swallows hawking insects. Most just sat on their perches and contributed to the din. All at once, they were gone. They lifted as if there was some invisible signal I missed and departed en masse.

I didn’t think starlings migrated from here (southeastern Pennsylvania). I know I have seen starlings pecking around dejectedly in the frozen muck of my backyard during winter. I just looked it up. Apparently, I live near the dividing line between migratory and non-migratory starlings, 40 degrees North. These particular starlings must have been the migratory variety.

Meditations in Motion

I checked my marigolds, hoping for some late season butterflies, but only saw a few Cabbage Whites. I know that some of the butterflies I see in the summer will migrate. Not only the famous Monarchs, but also Painted Ladies, Buckeyes, and Red Admirals travel to warmer climates for the winter. Some, like the Tiger and Black Swallowtails, survive the winter as pupae inside their chrysalis. Viceroys, who visually mimic Monarchs, overwinter as caterpillars. A very few, like the Mourning Cloak, will spend the winter curled inside a crevice in tree bark as an adult, and emerge on rare warm January afternoons to flit briefly around the forest.

Meditations in Motion

I found this beautiful lady lying in wait near our retaining wall. She (it was almost certainly a female spider since females are typically four times bigger than males of this species) is a Yellow Garden Spider, or Argiope aurantia, an orb weaver. Orb weavers are spiders who make circular webs. She is dangerous only to insects who get caught in her huge web, not to humans.

I am one of the weird humans who loves spiders. I figure anything that eats all of those nasty bugs has to be good. My philosophy regarding spiders is “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” She will lay eggs before the first hard frost this fall and die, but her babies will survive inside their egg sacs in a dormant state until spring when they will emerge and start chomping on the insects invading my garden.

 

 

I circled my house, looking at the remaining flowers in my yard, the petunias, the roses, the clematis, and I thought to myself “Remember this“. Remember this vibrant color, this fragile beauty, this hauntingly sweet fragrance so that you can recall all of this color and life when everything is brown and gray, when there are no flowers or spiders or even Cabbage Whites to see and marvel over.

Meditations in Motion

Oh, I know there is beauty in every season, but I love the eye candy, the brilliant, the can’t-miss-it kind of beauty abundant in summer. I crave pizzazz. As a birder, I thrill to see the dazzling, rare prothonotary warbler more than the drab and common house sparrow. Autumn always leaves me feeling a little bit wistful, as if I want to grab this moment and not let it go.

There is power in letting go. I know this in my head, but not in my bones, in my heart. In my heart, I want to hang on, to not let go. I would not be a good Buddhist, I think. In Buddhism, detachment is seen as a sign of spiritual maturity. But, I believe, it is not me. I cannot be detached when I feel so passionately about so many things. Detachment is a good way to prevent getting a broken heart, but is that really the way I want to live?

I force myself to take a breath. Attachment is good in some instances. It is how we form connections with those we love and how we stand fast to our moral values. It’s good to be attached to our family and our principles, isn’t it?

Meditations in Motion

Attachment to my family is good as long as I don’t become clingy, needy or insecure. I must be aware that I am responsible for my own happiness, not my husband, not my sons, not even my grandchildren (even though they do bring me a lot of joy). When I detach, I can still have healthy, productive, even passionate relationships with those I love, free of unhealthy fears and stifling fixations. It means I accept each person as they truly are, giving unconditional love with no expectations.

Attachment to my values is good as long as I don’t become rigid, unable to consider any possible solutions to moral dilemmas other than my own pre-conceived ideas. There is a gray area between moral ambiguity and being a narrow-minded, inflexible bigot. As Pope Francis said “Let us go towards the Gospel, let us go towards Jesus. This … means seeking the truth: morality is an act of love always, love for God and for one’s neighbor, it is an act that leaves space for the conversion of the other, it is not quick to condemn.” Let me head for that gray space between the two extremes.

So, maybe some detachment would be appropriate, especially since I don’t have the power to stop time. Maybe a better response to shortening days, migrating birds and butterflies, and dying spiders would be to find the beauty in today, rather than lament the lost beauty of yesterday. Perhaps I could learn to love the subtle appeal of a brown and gray landscape. It could be time to focus on the gray areas in life.

As the medieval Christian theologian and mystic Meister Eckhard said “He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment.” Or, as Frank Costanza (from the Jerry Seinfeld Show) so memorably put it, “Serenity now! Serenity now!

 

I am linking up with Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for their Friday 5, Susan B Mead for Dancing With Jesus, Crystal Twaddell for Fresh Market Friday, Spiritual Sundays for Welcome, Embracing the Unexpected for Grace and Truth, The Blended Blog for Friday Loves, Peabea Photography for Sunday Scripture Blessings, Just a Second for Scripture and a Snapshot, Anita Ojeda for Inspire Me Monday, A Jar Full of Marigolds for Selah, and Counting My Blessings for Faith ‘n Friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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61 comments

  1. “Maybe a better response to shortening days, migrating birds and butterflies, and dying spiders would be to find the beauty in today, rather than lament the lost beauty of yesterday.”

    That’s in in a nutshell — living in the moment. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not here yet (or even a given), so now is all we have.

    Not always so easy to do, of course.

    I have seen a lot of butterflies lately, but aside from Monarchs, I have no idea what the rest of them are!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are exactly right, of course. Living in today is not always easy to do (for me).

      I got a book titled “Butterflies Through Binoculars” and learned a bunch of them one summer a few years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a bad-ass spider! I hate it when people drop a long quote from my post into my comments, but I’ll do this anyway… For me this is the essence of Buddhist practice in my life. I feel like the word “detachment” comes with so many negative connotations, whereas non-judgmental is fueled by the positive. I love the sun and warmth and flowers and open windows. I need focus on equally loving the dark and cold and barren and indoor heat. In his book “Another Roadside Attraction” Tom Robbins talks about a couple of people walking through a rain storm. One hunches his shoulders and tries to pull his head in like a turtle. The other walks as if it’s a sunny day. They both get equally wet, but only one of them is fighting it. Long comment–do I have a point? IDK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the very insightful comment, Jeff (although I am a little bit confused about the quote part). I agree with you – the word “detached” does not seem like something we want to aspire to. I think we must be able to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy detachment. The example from Robbins’ book is perfect. I have read Tom Robbins before, but not this book. I will have to check it out. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I put in a quote from your essay but it got edited out. I put it between the arrow characters. That might be why… this was the quote I liked: “Maybe a better response… would be to find the beauty in today, rather than lament the lost beauty of yesterday. Perhaps I could learn to love the subtle appeal of a brown and gray landscape. “

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m headed out to the garden today to rescue the squash and pumpkins from the frost that is in tonight’s forecast, so I’ll be using your little phrase: “Remember this!” as I say goodbye to the remaining bright spots of color here on the hill!
    Of course, the frost should jump start the maples into fall color overdrive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Always so sad to say goodbye, even to squash from the garden, but, as you say, the conditions that bring an end to the squash, bring the fall colors to life! It is still pretty warm here, even in the evenings. We are supposed to have dinner with friends on their deck tonight!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your thought provoking post Laurie & beautiful colourful photos. Letting go is not easy but when we manage it and I can think of two very definite occasions where I managed to do just that and the change was amazing, such peace, freedom, a sense that all is and will be well!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I never minded spiders either. Anything that eats mosquitoes is a friend of mine! I struggle to not be depressed by the decline of fall. I think it magnifies the passage of time. But yes, letting go can be a very good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel exactly the same way. I think those feelings were what sparked this post.

      And, by the way, I never knew you volunteered at the Chicago Marathon. Maybe we crossed paths all those years ago! Did you put a medal around an exhausted, disheveled woman’s neck? If you did, that was probably me! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Anita! Yes, thank goodness that Jesus is attached to US. He did tell us that “not as the world gives do I give to you”.

      My running progress is slow, but going in the right direction!

      Like

  6. Beautiful post — images and words both. I agree that detachment is a difficult thing to wrap one’s head around; it can be so easily confused with apathy or even cynicism. I suspect, however, that what the Buddhists are after is not a kind of not-my-problem blasé perspective, but a way out of insisting that things unfold the way we, in our limited little minds, think they should. At least that’s what I think, with my limited li’l mind 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jan. I agree with your thoughts on “detachment”. that word has developed a negative connotation that is, in my opinion, unwarranted. I always get a little testy when things don’t go the way I think they should, but I have to learn to let go of that! 🙂

      Like

  7. So beautiful. I have so many words I want to share in this space but I better stop or my children will be at school all weekend. Just know I am afraid of trusting others so letting go is in my DNA but all too often I want to hold on I just don’t because I feel like I really cannot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Amanda. I would not want to be the cause for your children to be left at school all weekend! I should have some of your ability to let go. Holding on too tightly gets me in trouble! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Touching words you’ve shared that most definitely encourage us. I enjoy that about you and your blog, thank you! Yikes…that’s a big spider – I would’ve grabbed my camera too, but I would’ve been fearful – they are creatures we need in our gardens, but…still…a little creepy to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Shelley. You have inspired me to go out and take more pictures. I love the creative aspect of photography, even though I have a lot to learn. That spider never flinched, even though I was only inches away from her with my phone!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m a big spider fan too! I love the big ones I find outside building amazing webs and I will carefully transport any I find inside to the outside. I draw the line at those black and brown ones with the hourglass on their abdomens… they are toast. It must be odd to get ready for months of cold and snow… I imagine you get used to it but I would think that so much of your day-to-day lifestyle has to change to accommodate it. I don’t blame you for wanting to hold on to the colors and the warmth, although the pictures I see of a winter wonderland are stunning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! Another spider fan. We don’t have any spiders around here that would hurt a human. I would kill the black widows too! The new snow is pretty for about an hour. Then it gets dirty and either slushy or icy and I am ready for it to melt. Ugh! I don’t like when I can’t run outside because of ice and snow.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sending my youngest off to college was the hardest thing I’ve done. I’m not good at letting go. I’m sure it goes back to my tumultuous childhood. Lots of uncertainty there. I’ve come a long way. It’s gotten easier. I’m glad he’s not too far away.

    I don’t like spiders but I love their webs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I cried EVERY TIME I took my boys to college. We are empty nesters now, and loving it. we got married and had kids so young, but now we are still pretty young, the kids are gone, and we have the money and time to enjoy life. I didn’t know you had a tumultuous childhood. You must be proud of your journey!

      Like

  11. I haven’t quite let go of summer’s bright colors. I still have pink and white impatiens on the patio, waiting for the first hard frost before I say goodbye. The spiders, on the other hand, are n longer present, which makes y arachnaphobic friend happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I wish I could embrace spiders for the good they do Laurie, but I am so terribly afraid of them and centipedes … because they run faster than I can. I am like you in that I try to drink in all the beautify of the blooms, and the birds and the color as well, and wish I could bottle it up for those cold and dreary, snow-filled Winter days. I keep hearing from our Accuweather guys, who are also from Pennsylvania, or based there, that our SE Michigan Winter will be mild this year – I sure hope so as last year’s Winter was not fun, and I work from home, so don’t even deal with a commute, but I felt like I did nothing but shovel snow and dodge icy sidewalks last Winter. A Facebook friend posted a picture of a Woolly Bear caterpillar and I saved the picture and told her I wanted to research about its rings … the last time I did that, I found one at Council Point Park and that caterpillar’s rings “foretold” a bad Winter … it sure was, it was Polar Vortex #1.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I hope we have a milder Winter too Laurie – I don’t know what to make of our weather as I just mentioned to you in another comment. We’ve had a very rainy Spring and Fall and when we did not have a month-long drought in July, we had rain and very hot and humid. For running it is tough in the cold for breathing. I will walk in the cold if it is ice-free and snow-free and just bundle up. May we both meet our goals … I have a little longer than you with your event on October 28th.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Another beautiful, thought-provoking post 😉 Although I am not a fan of spiders, I do admire their talent for creating beautiful webs. It’s probably the art geek in me, but whenever I see a web glistening in the sunlight, I have to take a closer look at the details of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I get the whole not-a-fan-of-spiders thing. I have a friend who is a biology teacher. We once took a class on spiders together. We had to go outside and find spiders and their webs. She was not a fan of spiders, either. I can’t understand why she took the class, but it was fun. We laughed through it.

      Like

  14. What a great post for the beginning of Fall. Each season lets go and detaches. My flowers are slowing detaching from their beauty, the leaves will soon be cinnamon coloring the ground. Love your comparison of detaching but in a healthy way from the children and grandchildren. 🙂

    Peabea from Peabea Scribbles

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love all your beautiful photos! We have spiders like that around our place. I don’t particularly like spiders but I like what they do and this particular one is so beautiful and colorful. I think some detachment is good, esp. if it helps us refocus and make sure we are loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Beautiful post! I’m your neighbor at #InspireMeMonday. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the word “detachment” has some undeserved negative connotations. When we use it, it makes it seem like we just don’t care, when nothing could be further from the truth, especially when talking about family. Refocusing on God’s love and loving our neighbor is always a good thing!

      Liked by 1 person

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