a piece of paradise

May 3rd, 2013

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This is an excerpt from my next book Paradise in Plain Sight, coming next spring from New World Publishing.

The blue sky and bright day,
No more searching around!
Mumon’s Verse, Gateless Gate, Case 30

And then I saw the garden.

I’m going to slow down and choose my words carefully. Not because the garden is hard to describe, but because I want you to see.

Sometimes people come to the garden and say, “It’s so much smaller than I thought.” Or “It’s so much bigger than I thought.” Or “It’s not at all what I thought.” They have created a picture in their minds of what the garden would look like, or what it should look like, and when they see the real thing they aren’t seeing it at all, but comparing it to the picture in their minds. We cherish the pictures in our minds. We prize our fantasies or they wouldn’t be our fantasies, perfected with every wish. Nearly everything we cherish is just a picture: our ambitions and ideals, size 4 or 6 or 8; our notions of what happy families and their homes should look like (not this); the past, the future; our vision of love, lovers, and life ever after. The picture might even be a nightmare—frightening and forlorn—but we cherish it just the same.

Sometimes people come to the garden and say, “I had no idea.” Then they don’t say anything else, because they are actually seeing the garden. They are actually seeing what is right in front of them, and experiencing it. Then nothing needs to be said.

I had no idea what to expect when my husband called me to the kitchen. By this time we’d entered the house, and because it was empty, we did not take offense at what we saw. Empty rooms are full of possibilities. Possibility is full of love.

“You should see this,” he said.

I stepped into the kitchen where he stood at a plate glass window, looking out.

And then I saw the garden.

I saw a multitude of greens, iridescent greens. The glint of rocks and sunbleached stones. Red bark and burnished branches. The sheen on still water. The light on a hill. A foreground, a background: the seamless whole of three dimensions. Colors with no names because I wasn’t naming them. Beauty beyond measure because I wasn’t measuring it. A view unspoiled because I wasn’t judging it. The shine of the sky making everything visible, everything vivid, even the shadows, with the radiance of being alive.

This was not a picture of a garden. This was not a picture that I could ever conjure from memory or make-believe. This was true life, so unexpected it made me cry.

Now do you see? When you see your life, you bring it to life. When you don’t see your life, it is lifeless.

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17 Comments »

  1. I have seen the garden. And I had no idea…

    Comment by Maia Duerr/Liberated Life Project — May 3, 2013 @ 6:10 am

  2. (and I should note — I usually have many, many ideas!)

    Comment by Maia Duerr/Liberated Life Project — May 3, 2013 @ 6:15 am

  3. From this passage alone I am beginning to have ideas about this book and they will probably continue until it is born, yet I promise you I will enter it as a child enters the world. This is my promise and my salvation.

    Comment by Connie Assadi — May 3, 2013 @ 7:06 am

  4. I prefer Ummon’s “When you can’t say it, it’s there. When you don’t say it, it’s missing.”

    I like your garden …

    But I can’t say that. 🙂

    Comment by adam fisher — May 3, 2013 @ 7:13 am

  5. I love this so much. So beautifully written, and as always, so true.

    And I have those moments with my children–just pure moments of awe and delight. What would life be without those precious moments? You remind us that really life can be all about moments. And nothing else.

    Comment by Sarah Stanton — May 3, 2013 @ 7:34 am

  6. Loved this 3 or 4 ways.

    Comment by Jon — May 3, 2013 @ 7:40 am

  7. This is lovely, and reminds me to look and appreciate what is beautiful in my own garden, rather than lamenting (what I have decided!) are it’s imperfections. Yeah…for that matter, it would help to look at my life in that way too, wouldn’t it? Thank you, Karen. 😉

    Comment by Clare Kirkconnell — May 3, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  8. I want that.

    Comment by MJ — May 3, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

  9. I am speechless, because this is just so true. I cannot wait for your book. xox

    Comment by Lindsey — May 3, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

  10. I don’t have any words, Karen, but my heart knows it will love this book~~~

    Comment by Mary P. — May 3, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

  11. Quietly waiting for your book … but when it arrives, there will be a big smile!

    Comment by David Ashton — May 4, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

  12. I am so very happy to know that you will bless us with another book…my heart is fuller today.

    Comment by Kirsten — May 5, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

  13. I am in tears from what you’ve helped me to see. Thank you.

    Comment by lisa — May 6, 2013 @ 6:49 am

  14. yay! another book! i’m so excited for us (and for you).

    Comment by michelle — May 6, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  15. A week seldom passes without me picking up Hand Wash Cold to reread a passage and calm my day. I so look forward to adding Paradise to my day.

    Comment by Michael Douglas Jones — May 7, 2013 @ 3:27 am

  16. Ah! Thank you for sharing your beautiful garden, just as you dreamed it! Goes into my Maezen folder for future visits and encourages me to keep on dreaming in color. What great news, your new book,the healing balsam of your words! Happy happy Mother’s Day to you, who give so much to us…….

    Comment by Daisy Marshall — May 9, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

  17. […] in front of us! Read Karen Maezen Miller’s excerpt from her upcoming book Paradise in Plain sight here, then feel free let go of the image in your head and see what is in plain […]

    Pingback by Deborah Fry » Blog Archive » Parenting News You Can Use! August 13, 2013 — September 9, 2013 @ 6:57 am

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