A Work of Art
We have been living in the desert for almost a year now and so I have pretty much established a daily routine for my life out here. The once-foreign territory of my desert life has become quite familiar.
Every day my wife and I walk with our dogs. Sometimes we walk into the desert and at other times we walk through the streets of our little neighborhood located in a cove nestled up against the mountains. I have come to know the neighborhood quite well - the quaint "adobe" style homes colored in desert shades of orange, brown and yellow and gold, with gardens of flowers and cacti.
It is all quite beautiful, but it also has become very familiar to me. I sort of had it all figured out - until yesterday!
When we first moved here I was told that our neighborhood was, in fact, an "artist colony." I was told that various artists from all over the country (and all over the world) had moved into this little cove neighborhood because it is so conducive to creative work.
After all, the desert is itself a work of art. The hues of brilliant sunlight changing throughout the day, breathtaking sunrises and glorious sunsets, the cosmic night skies - it makes sense that artists would be attracted here.
While I had been told that we were living in an "artist colony," I never actually saw much evidence of the fact. My almost daily walks have revealed the same familiar homes - attractive and quaint. The neighbors seem friendly - how is this an "artist colony?"
Yesterday came the big surprise. Several of our neighbors opened up their homes to the community and it was an incredible experience. Those familiar houses I pass by every day are, in fact, studios -bright sunlit studios adorned with paint brushes and palettes, outdoor courtyards with kilns and potter's wheels, brimming with paintings and photographs, sculptures and brightly colored vessels of clay- beautiful works of art - my friendly neighbors are artists from all over the world who have come out here to live in and be inspired by the desert.
It was such an incredible surprise. I am indeed living in an "artist colony."
I have always said that the desert is a great teacher; and once again, my desert life has taught me a great lesson: "Don't ever become so familiar with anyone or anything that you think you have them or it all figured out."
In fact my desert lesson yesterday taught me something about incorporating a new kind of spiritual disciple into my daily living - a "disciple of expectation."
More than being awake and present to every moment, this discipline is informed by a firm belief that the world is always brimming with surprises. And so when I am mindful, and when I am present to the moment, I am also aware that, even when life seems very routine and very familiar, it is filled with much more than you might first see on the surface.
So, I am resolved to be open to the surprises. In fact, I keep alert because I expect the surprises.
I am reminded of a wisdom saying from the Buddha:
As soon as you think you are safe, something unexpected happens.
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