Anattā Anātmam

Let me tell you a story. 

Several years ago when my husband and our family moved into our first newly built home, we decided to plant several perennials around the house.  Perennial plants return year after year and are low maintenance. I found them rather endearing since Alaskan winters are the most brutal, and yet they return from the winter triumphantly with their leaves and branches intact. Their comeback always reminds me of an Olympian athlete’s arm in the air when they just won a gold medal. 

We decided to plant a lilac bush on the right side of the house. I don’t recall if we had purchased it bare root or if it had been one of those purchases at the Farmer’s Market or a greenhouse.  We planted her with love, and hoped for her survival. As spring came around year after year, I’ve observed how this lilac bush continually came back with a new branch and additional leaves. But, never without any blooms. 

We planted her in 2005. 

Each year she added a branch here, or an additional set of leaves there. I watered her just as I did with all the other plants, and every fall, I wondered if that summer had been her last. We began to notice the difference in her last year. Her leaves were greener, and she grew a few inches taller. Still, no lilacs. 

When the snow melted this year, and all the trees and greenery began emerging from their winter’s slumber, my husband noticed how she made her presence known. Her leaves began to show even before the peonies started to crawl out from the ground. 

I was stunned when I came home one day, and I looked over her way to find lilac buds forming at the tips of her branches. Those buds then blossomed into clusters of beautiful purple lilacs. 

It took her over 10 years to finally evolve, and bloom.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream. I dreamt that I walked in my closet to find a version of myself standing there smiling at me. In a few steps, I reached out and hugged her.  I felt my own hands hug back, and when I pulled away–it was my smile smiling back at me. The version of myself nodded her head and said, “the next decade is yours. All will be well.” I gave her one last hug, and walked away from her backwards. I watched her eyes close as the calmness settled in.  

There is the belief of Anattā or Anātmam where the focus is within the lightness of being, and letting go of the “no self or selflessness.”  I could live to 100 and still be a student of this concept–never fully understanding, questioning endlessly, and perhaps in the end–getting it all wrong. 

What I am slowly learning is that there is a way to be aware of the self, and selflessness– a symbiotic relationship progressing towards the unknown. 

Perhaps, if the lilac plant took a decade to evolve–so can the rest of us, don’t you think?

So, she bloomed. Lilac. Fairbanks, Alaska. May 2019. 

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