A coyote yips and howls. I don’t know what time it is, still dark. The Siamese jumps onto the sill, presses her body against the screen, hackles raised. She emits a low moan. In the distance an owl hoots and the dog rumbles a half-hearted growl. J still sleeps, so I get up to close the window and notice a pinking sky over the mountains. The cat and dog settle back down, tightly tucking into furry curls against the January chill. But for me, the night is over.
Today, this not-the-first-of-the-year, but this ordinary-Thursday-when-the-holiday-rush-has-finally-faded is my annual Life Visioning day. It begins when I light a candle against the dawn.
Actually I begin every day by lighting a candle and spending moments deep in reflection.
What am I grateful for from the previous day?
a little dancing after dinner
candles on the hearth
neighbors who share homegrown oranges
With a smile and fortitude from recalling all that’s good, I next invite my sacred heart space to be bathed by a divine floodlight where I cannot hide, not even from myself. I think back to the day before, and remember ways I did and didn’t act in alignment with my values and intentions. Can I repeat what went right? Can I correct the imbalances that caused failure?
I set me intentions for this day, write my to-do list within this womb of new dawn freshness. Then, I pray. I trace the presence of my family and friends upon my hands, using one index finger I begin at each fingertip recalling a name, a need, until the faces and the names of all those who are close to me are joined in the center of my heart-side palm.
I leave this meditation time by rejoining the entire human chain with an invocation for peace and love, “For those who will be born today, and those who will die.” Each month I also add a special intention. My January focus is, “For those who struggle with addiction or mental illness and for those who care for and try to love them.” I join my hands together, press them to my heart, bow to the sunrise and begin my “real” day.
Oh my goodness, telling you all this was difficult.
I’m an intensely private person by nature. There were years and years and when I didn’t even tell my own husband that I prayed, let alone that I meditated and lit candles in the dark and drew his name upon my palm.
Maybe I’ve decided that being myself is something I should do publicly.
Maybe I wrote, be yourself out loud on my to-do list this morning and it’s too early in the year to break promises to myself.
It is, in fact, right in the middle of the month the Backyard Sisters have dedicated to focus and while Susan will tell you how to focus your camera, I am relegated to suggesting ways to focus your writing life.
I learn today that the word focus comes from the Latin focus, meaning “hearth, fireplace.
focus (n.) 1640s, from L. focus “hearth, fireplace” (also, figuratively, “home, family”), of unknown origin, used in post-classical times for “fire” itself, taken by Kepler (1604) in a mathematical sense for “point of convergence,” perhaps on analogy of the burning point of a lens (the purely optical sense of the word may have existed before Kepler, but it is not recorded). Introduced into English 1650s by Hobbes. Sense transfer to “center of activity or energy” is first recorded 1796.
Inspired by the connectivity to the word focus and home, as nurturing my family ties always rises to the top of any priority list, I reread my last year’s life vision and adjust paragraphs or sections that no longer seem important. I focus on the lines that have followed me from year to year to year.
Write a book. Write a book. Write a book.
I realize I am. I have. Written the book(s). I just haven’t pushed hard enough for publication. I cross out the line.
Write a book. I revise: Send out book. We are only in control of our own actions, I realize. And now is the time to act with focus, with fire, with the kind of fierceness you would use to advocate for someone that you love.
With light and love
Précis: (This is a lovely new word I discover today. It means a summary.)
When you sit in peace, quiet self-truth speaks loudly. Pay attention to what you’re trying to tell yourself.
Can you create a vision for your life? Nothing fancy, just write about the life you want to live. I live in a house small enough to vacuum in an hour. Date it. Remember to include all the elements of nature: Air-spirit. Fire-ambition. Water-refreshment. Earth-body. Space-mind. Focus on one action for each element that you can accomplish within the next month or so. Write that down too.
Create a scene of dialogue between two characters, one whose inner and outer life is aligned – think Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – and another who projects a false outward image – think Fermina Daza from Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Now what would happen if they end up in a story together?