Once a week, no matter how busy I am, I take an afternoon off and just sit and stare at the clouds.
It’s not always easy to rearrange my schedule or put my deadlines on hold to carry out this weekly ritual. In fact, there are many times that I almost talk myself out of it. But in the end, once I park myself on my usual bench and turn my head skyward, my cares and troubles just seem to drift away as the clouds begin to work their magic.
“Look! Look at that one,” my mother will say. “Look how soft and fluffy it is. And it reaches clear across the sky.”
My mother is 88 years old and it is she that draws me to this weekly meeting with the clouds. Ten years ago, her doctors diagnosed her with dementia. But in her present state of constant peace and happiness, it’s hard for me to see her as demented. To me, she seems so much more transcendent than demented.
I’ve spent a good part of my life trying to reach a state of complete mental calm and peace. My mother has reached it. I struggle with almost daily demons of guilt and insecurity and fear. My mother has none. No matter how hard I try, I sometimes focus on the negative and ugly elements of life. But not my mother. All she ever sees is beauty. And she’s eager to share it.
“Mmmm, feel that breeze,” she’ll say. “Nice and soft.”
And I realize that, if she hadn’t mentioned it, I probably would have let the breeze go unnoticed. But her words slow me down and I feel that gentle brush against my cheek, feel the slow-motion movement of my hair in the wind.
Every now and then she’ll turn to me and say, “But nothing is better than having my favorite daughter beside me. You are even more beautiful than the clouds.”
This time with my mother is bittersweet. She has always had an eye for beauty. She always took the time to stop and gaze at the clouds or appreciate the wonder of a full moon.
When I was a sullen teenager, trying hard to be rebellious and moody and difficult, she would often call me outside to look at some beautiful aspect of nature. It could be a full moon or a starry night sky.
She’d be outside in the garage, doing a load of laundry perhaps, and the moon or the sky would draw her attention and she would come inside, looking for someone to share it with.
I’d reluctantly go out and take a quick glimpse to appease her, without even really acknowledging the beauty of the sight.
Her home was full of artifacts of nature that held intricate patterns and designs so miniscule that they would have gone unnoticed by a lesser mind. A mind that didn’t realize that life is short and full of infinite beauties to behold. But she saw them and she savored them and she collected them to point them out to others that didn’t take the time to stop and see. People like me. Too wrapped up in my jobs and my romances and even things as mundane as books or movies or television. I was too busy to see all that beauty around me, but also too busy to really notice how much of it was there, in my mother.
And so, each week, no matter what I am doing or how busy I am, I stop and visit my mother and we sit and stare at the clouds.
“Look! Look at that one,” my mother will say. “Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?” And as I turn and look at her, I realize that until this precious time in my life, I don’t think that I have.
** My beautiful mother passed away on September 7, 2009
(This story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom, c2010)