"Before," Eugene Peterson writes in Run with the Horses, "is the root of the invisible now." So I decided to take that with me into meditation, to do a walking meditation, and to bring my camera.
The sky was fabulous -- clear and bright above, with dark clouds ringing the horizon; it was clear the weatherman's predictions about the end to our long spell of sunny days would be coming true. Everywhere I looked there was beauty of the sort found in early fall: things ripening and dying, intense yellows glowing in the slanting sun against the deep gray sky.
The colors were magnificent; I hope to be sharing some of the images over the next few days to give you a taste. But this dying sunflower was my favorite of the lot, and much more impressive in black and white than in color. I've always loved color, but it can also be a distraction. And it seemed to me that if I were to talk about before as the root of now, this image was a better fit for the subject matter.
We all know what sunflower seeds look like; most of us even know what they taste like. So we know that one of those seeds led to this enormous flower; they came before. We also know that that one lacy bit of petal clinging to the center leaves was once large and yellow, bold and bright, and that the dark seeds behind it will both feed the birds and ensure more sunflowers to follow in the spring.
Because we've been through a few seasons, we understand that larger picture of birth, flowering, death and sustenance that is carried in the now of this flower. What we find it harder to understand, of course, is that the same is true for us. As Peterson says, "We grow into a life already provided for us. We arrive in a complex of relationships with other wills and destinies that are already in full operation before we are introduced. If we are going to live appropriately, we must be aware that we are living in the middle of a story that was begun and will be concluded by another."
It's not easy to step back from our lives and look at the bigger picture, the connectedness to creation that both precedes and follows us. But if we cannot at least attempt to remain aware of now as a moment on a continuum, of our perspective as limited by where we stand in the moment, and by what came before to form us, we run the risk of never seeing the wholeness of possibility. And I LOVE the way Peterson describes this problem:
"If we use our ego as the center from which to plot the geometry of our lives, we will live eccentrically."
Perhaps this explains why we're all a little eccentric -- it's because just haven't quite figured out yet where the true center of existence lies!