I had a dream last night that I can’t quite forget. I was in a cabin on an island in the wilds of Whitefish Ontario Canada. It was a small cabin with a dirt floor and wooden rafters. There were no rugs or curtains. There was no dishwasher or garbage disposal or pop out toaster oven. There were none of the luxuries I had come to depend upon. There were only the bare essentials, a few pieces of furniture and a two burner wood stove. I had no use for the electric light and synthetic heat because the sun that filtered in through the windows gave light and warmth. A glowing fire was dancing in the fireplace and it also shed warmth to protect me from the chilly morning dew that crept in through the log walls. I opened the door of my cabin and stepped outside and the only sounds I heard were the faraway cry of a loon and the leaves of the silver birches rustling in the breeze. In the distance I heard the gentle lapping of the water against the shore. I looked up and saw the beautiful, intricate system of birch limbs shielding me from the bright sun. Through the limbs I saw the gracefulness of the wild geese soaring through the sky. There were no telephones, no cars, no supermarkets, no doorbells. I was alone and I was contented.
The shrill alarm of my clock awoke me this morning, and I was angry that my solitude had been interrupted and my cabin on the island was gone. Instead I was faced with the telephone ringing, the milkman driving by, the scuffling of children’s feet going to school,the prospects of teaching, cafeteria duty, study hall, school conferences, dentist appointments,stops at the drug store and supermarket,cleaning cooking and mending. But what was it in my dream that I really missed? It was the contentment. Then I asked myself must I be alone in a wilderness to be contented? After all, isn’t contentment the ability to be happy with existing circumstances? Then I realized that true contentment doesn’t come from my physical surroundings, but comes from within me. I suddenly came to the conclusion that there were certain qualities I could cultivate to regain the contentment I missed.
First, I would like to grasp the gift of patience. I want to be able to endure my problems and crises in life without complaint. Of course everyone has patience to some degree, but I want to be able to be patient even during the most trying times.
Next I would like to strive toward a simplicity of life. I realize this is much easier said than done. My good neighbor was over the other day and we were talking about “stuff” as we sipped our coffee. Suddenly she said, “ you have to get shed of things!” Now, I find perhaps she was right. When New Year’s comes around I am tempted to do what the Italians do on New Year’s day. They simply open there windows and throw into the street everything they don’t want. If I don’t let my life become muddled with insignificant possessions and duties I will truly be on the path to serenity.
A third quality for contentment is to have compassion. By this I mean having the ability to see the pain and suffering of other individuals and have the desire to help. It is fairly easy to have compassion for someone who is physically in pain and suffering,but what about mental suffering? This reminds me of a story Mom used to tell. “Remembering back to my college days at Capital University when I was required to take math courses; for some reason all the algebra,geometry and trigonometry formulas and equations never seemed to register in my mind. Yet, because of what was expected of me I just had to pass those math courses. My father realized how I was suffering so after teaching school all week he would drive up to my dorm at Capital every Friday and Saturday night and help me learn my math assignments. Let me have the compassion for my students that my father had for me.” My mother did have compassion for her students.
What would any of the qualities I have mentioned be without a sense of humor? Instead of always seeing the bad side of a situation, let me first look at the light side of it. Another story Mom used to tell; “One summer when my children were young, my brother Dean and his wife were coming from California to visit me. I hadn’t seen them for many years so quite naturally I wanted everything to be just right. I had spent the whole week cleaning my house from top to bottom. When the day came for them to arrive I was proud that everything was in its place and shining clean. Finally, their car drove up in front of our house and I went out to meet them. I stepped out on the porch, looked around and could have just sat down and bawled. My girls had decided, without my knowing it, to help me clean by doing the family wash. Hanging from all our shrubs, dripping wet, were my slips, my husbands shirts and socks, and scattered throughout were dolls clothes. I looked at my brother, his wife looked at me and we all burst out in gales of laughter.” I only hope as I grow older that people when they look at me, will see laugh wrinkles instead of frown wrinkles.( As an aside, I Scribe Joe Todd am not in this story, just my sisters Sara and Ginny.)
Lastly, may I always remember the three essential qualities of life itself: First something to do, Second someone to love, and third something to hope for.
As this passage from the Sanskrit so aptly puts it:
Look to this day For it is life The very life of life. In its brief course lie all the varieties and realities of your existence. The bliss of growth; The glory of action; The splendor of beauty; For yesterday is already a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision; But today, well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Penned mostly by Sister Sara and a little by Scribe Joe Todd.. Any errors were made by Scribe Joe Todd