Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hanson, and Amy Newmark
Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.
I was wandering in the floral section of the supermarket in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. I felt oddly out of place, like I was cutting school or doing something I shouldn’t be. Normally, I would be at my desk at work at this time on a weekday, but it had been months since I was laid off from my job. Normally, the heady fragrance and profusion of color would have made me happy. But this was not a normal day. I was upset and depressed that a pink slip was the thanks I got for my knowledge, loyalty, and dedication as an architectural computer draftsperson for the county school board for eight out of thirty years of my career. I felt like I had no purpose. No one needed my talents or me any longer.
Every day, I made a list of things I wanted to get done. I wanted to clean the house, organize my mountains of art supplies, and run all those errands I didn’t have time to do when I was working. I’d start those tasks, but before I could finish anything, I would either run around the living room crying loudly or curl up in a ball on the sofa in a gray mental haze and do nothing. I was so miserable that I totally ignored my husband, yelled at my kids, and pushed them all away. Months of wasted time went by in which I could have been doing something… anything.
Applying for jobs was frustrating. There were no openings for what I had been doing. I didn’t know what else I even wanted to do. I felt too tired to be interested in doing anything. I wished for something new to just plop into my lap and say, “Here you go; this is right for you.” But nothing did.
So there I was, in the floral aisle, fingering the velvety petals of an insanely bright yellow sunflower when these words suddenly popped into my mind. “Be a sunflower in the garden where you’re planted.” What did that mean? On the one hand, the sunflower was like that smiling yellow happy face logo you see everywhere… that have-a-nice-day cliché. I certainly wasn’t in the mood for that. I was too busy wallowing in my unemployment depression. But on the other, it was as though the blossom spoke to me and planted that message in my brain. Maybe I desperately needed it to.
I had been spinning my wheels agonizing about my income, but I think my pride was hurt worse than my pocketbook. I did get meager unemployment checks. And, thank goodness, I had a husband to keep a roof over my head. I was really grateful for that. Instead of wasting time and mental energy worrying about the bills, I realized I needed to just face the reality of it, cut non-critical expenses, and plan out the rest. When I visited my twenty-eight-year-old son at his home, I had watched him spend money on extravagances like vacations and new cars. It made me feel jealous and angry that he was so wasteful. But on reflection, I realize that we were in different circumstances and at different stages in life. He had a good, high-paying job. I had what he had when I was his age. There was no reason why he shouldn’t be enjoying his life since he could afford it. I had to learn to accept my new circumstances. There would be no more new clothes and dinners out for quite some time.
The thought about blooming where I was planted meant to me that I should make the most of what I had. It made me realize that while I did not have much money, but I did have time. There were so many things I once enjoyed that I had put off or quit doing when I was working an eight-to-five job. I loved to draw and paint, but it had been years since I had time for them. I had always liked writing, but I hadn’t had time for that in years. I had taught myself to play the flute years ago too, but it had been gathering dust. I didn’t know if I even remembered how to play a tune anymore. I had teenage kids and housework that need my attention.
It was time to become a sunflower and flourish where I was planted, in my forced retirement with the luxury of free time. I found a part-time job teaching reading, math, and art in a literacy program for low-income elementary school children at my county library. My new job is wonderfully fulfilling. It doesn’t pay all my bills, but it does bring me joy. My career is not back on track yet, but at least I feel needed again. I work four afternoons a week. Now I have time to be that sunflower.
I am writing again now and have even published a few things. That’s extremely satisfying. I put art lessons together for my students. I am on speaking terms with my husband again. And now, I feel good about helping my own kids with their schoolwork and interests. I even manage to squeak out a few tunes on my flute when the mood strikes me. Until a full-time job comes along, I love my spare time!
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hanson, and Amy Newmark
Death leaves a heartach no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
~From a headstone in Ireland
Snowball came to me as a Christmas gift when I was seven years old. She was part of my life until I was twenty-seven. Having a pet through all your growing-up years and into adulthood creates a remarkable bond. Snowball was a beautiful white cat with lemon-yellow eyes and a perfectly shaped pink nose. She was unique not only in her exceptionally good looks, but in her remarkable intelligence and devoted attachment to me.
When I was in elementary school, most days Snowball would follow me as I walked a mile to school. As I walked along the sidewalk, she would sneak through the shrubbery in all the front yards along the way. I could watch her from my classroom
window, playing in the school courtyard all day. She would follow me home at the end of the day in the same manner.
Our bond was so strong that whenever I was upset or sick, she would always seek me out and sit by my side, never budging, until I felt better. When I would visit a friend, she would follow me and sit on their windowsill and wait for me. Later, in high school when I started driving to school, she would wait on the porch for me. She recognized my car and would run to greet me at the curb.
Snowball was a neighborhood sensation because of the way she loved to ride in the front basket of my bike and go trick-or-treating with my group of friends on Halloween. Sometimes, she would sit all day, obliviously basking in the sun in the middle of our street, forcing the neighbors to give up waiting and tapping their horns only to patiently laugh and drive around her.
She was remarkably courageous and fierce, too. Snowball loved to chase straying large German Shepherds and Sheepdogs out of our yard like a rodeo rider. We laughed as she rode on their backs, claws dug in, as they galloped, yelping for mercy all the way down the street.
Snowball eventually became a devoted mother of two litters. I was the only human she trusted to handle her babies right after their birth.
When I grew up and moved across the country I took her with me. Even at the advanced age of nineteen years, she was so youthful and full of energy that she chased after lizards on my apartment patio by running horizontally up the walls.
I cannot relate the details of her untimely illness and death because, even to this day, so many years later, it breaks my heart to think about that chapter of our lives. She lived to the age of twenty, but doubtlessly, she would have lived many more years if not for certain circumstances.
I was so devastated by the loss of my feline soul mate that it took me eleven years before I could accept another cat into my life. And during those years, I had this strong feeling that somehow, somewhere, she was still close by. It was a pervasive feeling that she was still with me, that her spirit was omnipresent and watching me.
I still have her ashes in a tea tin that I keep in a box in my closet. I couldn’t bury her, for I did not know where I would be living years later and did not want to leave her behind and far away from me.
Two years after Snowball’s death, my first child, Nicholas, was born. By the time he was two years old he was already gifted spiritually. I did believe he had amazing clairvoyant talent. For example, I would be sitting, writing out a grocery list, and thinking that I needed strawberries. And at that moment, my eighteen-month-old son would come toddling over and say, “Mommy, don’t forget strawberries!”
One day, he was playing on the floor inside my closet. When he came out, I asked, “Nicky, what are you doing in there, sweetie?”
My son said, “Mommy, I’m playing with a pretty white cat!”
It took me completely by surprise. I had never mentioned Snowball’s existence to Nick. I asked him, “What is a cat doing in my closet, Nicky?”
He replied, “She said that she’s watching over you, Mommy.”
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hanson, and Amy Newmark
February 2012 ISBN: 978-1-935096-91-7
Three More Messages from Heaven-type Stories:
© 2011 L.W.
My Son Is My Dad
© 2011 L.W.
Some called it the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, some called it the second Summer of Love. I called it the Summer of Discovery. It was a time I discovered many things and embarked on the long journey of understanding who and where I was.
Holiday Ranch was a summer camp for girls. Nestled in the small, rural town of South Kortright in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains, the camp specialized in horseback riding. It was run by a kind, elderly couple known to us campers as Aunt Kelly and Uncle Joe. I was 15 in 1969. Three other girls about my age and I were hired on for the summer as counselors-in-training. Our jobs were to be camp counselors' assistants or gofers. As CITs, we had to take the little kids on hikes in the woods, teach boating safety and rowing, bus tables, and serve food in the dining hall. Those were my first responsibilities in life outside of school and household chores.
We spent our days riding horses, going on barefoot hikes in the creek up the mountain, catching snakes, and melting crayons to cover Coke bottles in drippy, psychedelic, colored wax. The CITs also liked hanging out together inside the concrete culvert pipe under the road. There, in our private meeting spot, we practiced smoking cigarettes without coughing, and drank our first cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, given to us by the hunky maintenance man that lived on the property. The four of us would frequently spend all night laying out under the stars, ostensibly to watch the meteor showers, but really to spy on the hunky handyman, his wife, and their friends. We watched them, shushing each other‘s titillated giggles, from the shadows as they cavorted and swam naked in the camp pool when they thought no one was watching. It was a summer of discovering grown up things.
One day, we heard on the radio all about this fantastic Woodstock concert happening in White Lake, a town only a short distance away. When I heard the list of bands scheduled to play there, I thought my entire record collection would come to life on stage. And that started all the plotting and planning.
Our little group sat in the culvert and discussed how we would simply have to take Aunt Kelly and Uncle Joe's Ford Falcon and drive there. We quickly figured out it would be tricky to get the key from the house – if we even knew where they kept it. It soon dawned on us that none of us had driver’s licenses or even knew how to drive. Being from Long Island and Connecticut, no one in our group had any clue exactly where White Lake was – only that it was tantalizingly close by. We figured it was about ten miles away, but in what direction? We heard newscasters on the radio declare, "The New York State Thruway's closed, man!" So, in our fifteen-year-old brains, that meant all the roads in the area were jammed. And maybe they were. After that, we thought, "Ah-ha! We'll just saddle up four horses and ride there!" We could ride across the fields and up mountain trails, avoiding roads to get there. But then the sinking feeling of reality hit. We had no idea which way to go. And even if we did, Kelly and Joe would surely call the police about the stolen horses and the missing campers, or worse yet... They would call our parents!
It was killing us that we considered ourselves part of the hippy culture, but we were trapped in a summer camp like goofy kids. It was frustrating that we were so close, yet so far, from where we wanted to be both physically and mentally. And so we resigned ourselves to our cracking transistor radio. We made do with snippets of music and concert news from the center of the universe, from the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
We smoked and drank ourselves dizzy in the culvert. We flirted with the handsome, young, but married handyman. And we ran barefoot through the soft forest and fields for the rest of that summer. Every time I hear a piece of music from that momentous concert, it still brings back indelible memories and tangible feelings of those warm, easy last days of carefree innocence on the brink of hipness.
True Tale of Good Karma Consciousness