Wake Up! What are you sweeping away? Look closely.

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Wake Up!

Editor of ReadTheSpirit online magazine

So far, this winter feels like a dark continuation of autumn—leaden skies, rains and very little snow. That means we enter the new year 2015 with the fallen leaves of 2014 still littering the ground.

Do you keep mulling over the past year’s highs and lows? Remembering past successes—and wondering how you could have handled those … well, those moments of failure … more effectively? As many times as we have raked and swept and composted our fallen leaves, this bleak Michigan winter keeps stirring up the old leaves from all those hidden places: stuck in flower beds, hidden under bushes, stuck under steps and lawn furniture.

We enter a new year still sweeping.

But the Buddhist writer Geri Larkin called out to me, once again, from the midst of my labors: Wake up!

Here’s how it happened: I’ve known Geri since her early days as a Buddhist priest in Ann Arbor, through her era of running a Buddhist center in one of Detroit’s most impoverished neighborhoods, and I keep her books close at hand to remind me of her wisdom, especially Close to the Ground: Reflections on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment and Plant Seed, Pull Weed: Nurturing the Garden of Your Life.

Now that Geri has moved to the West Coast, I rarely get to see her. I was able to spend a day with her in 2010 as I wrote a series of columns called American Journey.

Since that time, Geri has kept in touch mainly by sending me surprises for Christmas—my holiday, not hers, but she always marks the occasion for my benefit. It’s a mark of her overflowing compassion, I know, and something that I treasure. More than once, she has startled me with thought-provoking hand-painted images, sent in December as her year-end best wishes to me and my family. Her year-end mailings always seem perfectly attuned to our spiritual needs.

So, this year in mid-December, I walked down the driveway through yet another scattering of leaves toward the mailbox, and I was elated to find an envelope from Geri in the fistful of letters and catalogs awaiting me at the side of the road. I ripped open the envelope as I was heading back into the house and called to my wife, Amy: “It’s a card from Geri! Look!”

And it was just that—just a card. Nothing hand made, this year. And a scribbled note that said:

“Something wonderful is going to happen soon.”

I read it twice. Then, a third time. Searching for the meaning, I told my wife: “It’s so nice she remembered us.”

And I popped the card into the basket we set out each December to hold greeting cards.

I forgot it, I have to admit. I was thinking about those darned leaves! Where do they keep coming from? Why can’t I conquer them?

And, that afternoon, I took a break from some editing work, pulled on my coat again, and armed myself with broom and dust pan. I swept! Golden leaves heaped into my dust pan, then slid into a composting bag. I was almost finished, when …

I realized that one golden leaf was a perfect rectangle. Reaching into my dustpan, I pulled out that strange leaf.

It was a tiny picture of the Buddha!

It must have dropped out of Geri’s envelope as I hurriedly ripped it open earlier.

I laughed. “Geri! Geri!” I chuckled, forgetting the leaves.

Thinking about this tiny Buddha—almost lost in the debris—I flipped over the image.

On that other side, Geri had written two words:

“Pay attention!”

And, now, I’ll never forget that card—and that surprising gift it held: a fragile reminder that I almost lost, a clarion call to …

Wake up!

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