A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Albert Einstein

As I sat down to write this post, two giant black crows leapt from one of the surrounding trees and flapped their large black wings, sending a ripple of sound like wind through the garden. Outside on my deck, lovely lavender grows in long wooden boxes and apple tree branches with round, red and green on-their-way-to-ripening-but-only partly-there apples reach toward you like in a 3-D movie. A plane zooms overhead, a hovering sky ship we have become accustomed to flying on for many hours and toward thousands of destinations.Recently I was an excited occupant on one of those soaring above-the-clouds ships.

Today I land here, at home in the circle of life that I live within. We all do. Our hand-holding partners may look different, depending on where we stand, or sit, lie, work or rest. We may be millions of miles away from each other or barely a footstep and not know each others’ names. What do we call the weeds that grow in the third planter on my deck? And what about the deck itself, the symmetric pieces of wood I walk on day after, whose former lives we know not of. Surely they too were standing erect and proud in the forest somewhere around us.

Under the roof of the barn where my partner and I make our home, there are more hand-holders, although these might be difficult to grasp as they are so tiny and as yet confined to a nest beside their newborn siblings. Two nests actually. The swallows arrived first, about a day or two after my return from my east coast holiday. We have been watching them make new families each year since we moved here. However last year was devastation. After laying their eggs, and seeing to their hatching, the parents must have gotten killed and there was no one to mouth-feed the babies, so they died, all four of them. We hadn’t heard any tweets for a day.

When my partner pulled up the ladder to the mud and grass nest in the barn’s covered southeast corner, he found the little ones dead and buried them in the forest beside our home. This year we were concerned, and hopeful. Now that the eggs have hatched, each time the little beaks open (so wide, they surely are hungry beings) we thrill to their chittering song.

And the towhees. They are new to us, well, to us watching them. Surely they too have been mating and laying eggs and hatching, taking their delightful space in the circle. However, this year we are aware of their births, and their equally tiny bodies huddled in the nest, tucked into the gutter at another corner, on the north tip of the barn. They are younger than the swallows, although only by a few days. Soon we will hear their hungry chirping.

This past weekend a different family of singers proudly stood beside me. At the first Opening to Joy mini-retreat, we six women spent a glorious afternoon telling stories of various kinds to ourselves and to each other. Using written, oral and visual storytelling techniques, we rediscovered memories from our youth and explored our present day abundance. The day was dedicated to the Gate of Plenty, and a day of plenty it was. We feasted on a cornucopia of food and friends, laughter and learning. It was a marvellous harvest of love.

What is plentiful in your life right now? How do you appreciate the abundance that is already yours? Who contributes to your feeling of plenty?

May we all “widen our circle of compassion” to include all beings. May all beings feel the joy of shared stories and witnessed births. May all beings be happy and peaceful, and live with ease.