A Sudden Uplift

The world is not an easy place these days. There’s so much news about sad, unhappy situations and events, and so little—if any—good news. The world felt grim enough before Putin began his incursion into Ukraine, but add Putin and his troops to the mix, and dread and anxiety about invasion make things feel so much more pressing and volatile. Everybody I spend time with, or simply encounter at the supermarket and greengrocer down the street, seems insecure. You ask them how they are, and they stall, hesitating to answer. No matter what is happening in their life, nobody feels “fine” any more.

As for me, I work very hard at keeping up my spirits. I practice noticing small, beautiful things. I pay particular attention to all the good, no matter how tiny, in my life. And I have so much to be grateful for. But no matter how often or deeply I practice, the world presses in on me, and more and more lately, I feel gloomy. I’m not in the habit of limiting my focus so completely. Quite the opposite; I was raised and educated to think outside myself, to reflect on life broadly, to interest myself in a great deal of what is happening around and beyond me. So, I find myself slipping frequently, inadvertently enlarging my perspective—and making myself feel glum.

I was feeling particularly dark when my friend Sandy and I took our Monday walk. I was happy to see her and looking forward to our oatmeal-tasting that morning. (We’ve begun sampling the oatmeal at the various cafes around Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville each week at the end of our walk.) But my pleasure felt fragile.

Sandy, however, was upbeat. She had a recent discovery to introduce me to, and she knew I would love it: Jeronimus Alley, a multiblock-long mural-filled alley. She was right, of course. The alley is fabulous, as is the collection of architect-designed and quirky Berkeley houses we passed as we walked. But it wasn’t enough to lift my gloom. Then we walked further north, to Urban Adamah, a square-block urban farm and retreat center. Although it’s closed to visitors wandering in because of Covid, just peering in at the green vegetables thriving in rich beds, the group of volunteers and interns around a table enjoying breakfast together, the retreat center, lifted my spirits.

After poking around outside the farm, we t found ourselves at Codornices Creek, which runs along the edge of the farm.. The creek is low now, but along the banks, I noticed hundreds of tiny plants, placed there by volunteers of the Creek Restauration Project. Gazing at the tiny plants, I suddenly saw in my mind’s eye, volunteers squatting along the creek, tenderly setting each tiny plant into the soil, and I felt my heart lifting even more.

I’ve been returning all week long to those tiny plants and the dedicated volunteers who placed them along the banks of the creek. And each time, with the image of people who care and who are doing their part in my heart, I feel uplifted.

Antique Rust

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