Thursday, April 16, 2015

Zestful Parking Lot

Zestful Blog Post #102

So much of this blog has been about the craft of writing, and, in recent months, the publishing business. Zestful writing is great. But in order to write with zest, we also have to live with zest, don’t we?

And what does that mean? It can mean doing exciting or extraordinary things like skydiving, alligator-wrestling, or going off to be a mercenary in some craphole war. You can think of a thousand more.

But most of us live fairly quiet lives that sometimes verge on the mundane, or at least the routine. Routine isn’t necessarily a negative. I like routine. But I like to feel alive, most of all. Way too often I forget about that part.

The other day I drove to the store to pick up some things; a typical mundane errand. My mind was wandering all over the place—a snatch of music, a task ahead, some unresolved grievance, some unresolved longing. But when I got out of the car I saw

[photo by ES]

these gorgeous magnolia blossoms, and they just arrested my heartbrain. I stopped and inhaled and yeah, magnolia! The whole time I was in the store I thought about that little tree, one of a dozen planted on the little islands in the parking lot. And I thought, be present, bitch. The Buddha could be waiting for you out in that parking lot. He could be that lady chopping vegetables behind the deli counter. He could be that apple in your hand. He IS waiting in the parking lot. He IS that lady, that apple. I often think of Buddha, but I’m also a fan of Jesus, Athena, and all the rest.

There’s a reason that ‘stopping to smell the flowers’ is a timeworn cliché. Literally stopping what you’re doing (which is usually going somewhere) and smelling whatever flower happens to be on hand, is a way of becoming present. Spiritual leaders constantly admonish us to be present. Why? Because in the present lies eternity. In the present, true zest becomes available to us. When we’re present, we’re totally alive.

So that day I was like, hell, let’s pay attention on the walk to the car. It wasn't a pretty walk, until I got to the magnolia tree again. But it was a beautiful walk. It was a zestful walk. Being present, no matter what we’re doing, makes life rich. It makes life life, not some meandering dream.

What helps you become present? To post, click below where it says, 'No Comments,' or '2 Comments,' or whatever.

I might add that you can now pick up the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest magazine at your favorite newsstand. The theme is “Write and Sell Short Stories”, and it includes a feature by yours truly, “15 Hacks for Characterizing Fast”. You’ll also find career advice from James Scott Bell, flash fiction techniques from Grant Faulkner, and an interview of the incredibly prolific Susan Mallery.

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