All posts by Shannon Mayhew

Grace in the Muck, part 1

This morning my dog Casey and I walked around Lake Inspiration in the Kentlands.  This is where, thirteen years ago, David and I used to walk, holding hands, discovering our new neighborhood together.  A few years after that, I huffed around the partially wooded loop, nine months pregnant, having contractions.  I pushed a stroller, and then a double stroller, along the dirt and rock trail, and held pudgy-muddy little hands on this walk too.

But I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been there, because, to my great surprise, today almost half of the lake was covered in lotus leaves!  With flowers!

Lotuses on Inspiration photo by shannon mayhew

Is it nice?

This is what Lake Inspiration used to look like, below.  That’s my older daughter, then around four years old.  She could have sat on that rock for hours.  Although she may not have known the meaning of the word “inspiration,” she knew the feeling.  She understood in her body that somehow, watching the top of the lake being nudged by the wind created ripples that extended beyond the water, into her heart.

Is it nice photo by shannon mayhew

“Is it nice?” she asked me one morning, when we stopped our stroll to gaze at the water.  She was not quite two years old.  Now, we playfully ask each other this question whenever we have that feeling of wonder in our hearts that can’t be easily articulated.

The grace that nourishes

That picture always reminds me of one of my favorite poems, “The Peace of the Wild Things” by Wendell Berry.  I love the part of the poem where he says that “wild things” like the wood drake and the great heron “do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.”  Berry suggests that being in the midst of the peace and stillness of nature allows him to “rest in the grace of the world,” rather than let worry overcome him.

It’s such a gorgeous message, and a powerful practice.  If only we could hold Lake Inspiration in our pockets and take it into the world with us, to the office, to the parent-teacher meetings, to bed with our should’s and to-do lists.  Or, inwardly, to the places where our hearts hang with quiet grief, to our anger-scorched cheeks, or to the pains that drain our strength.

In yoga, we experiment with discovering a kind of repose within ourselves, practicing breath- and movement-based methods to give us access to a deep, healing sense of calm.  I think we all can accept that getting more oxygen into the body, along with stretching and strengthening, are healthy practices that can lead to feeling less stressed.  But what is it about yoga that truly opens us, as with Berry’s moments with the wood drake, to the grace that heals and nourishes?

Tomorrow, when this series continues, we will consider how Carly Simon, the lotus flower, and the art of allowing help us to answer this question!  Check back, or if you wish, you can subscribe to this blog to receive tomorrow’s post by email.