Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dependent Snow-arising

Living in California means rain in the winter so when it started snowing on Friday morning, we adjusted our schedule to incorporate a little of nature's magic.  The flurries started just as we were about to begin our Letter O spelling test.

"Mama, can we please go outside and play in the snow?"

At first, I resisted.  Then it really started coming down and sticking to ground.

"Mama, please can we go outside?  We never get snow!"

By now it was covering our yard in a soft, white blanket.  Knowing that the flurries wouldn't last, I gave in, threw my coat on her, and we ran outside in our flannel pajamas.

While I was eager to explain that snowflakes are a particular form of ice that form in clouds which consist of water vapor, Amelie was eager to touch, taste, and smell each delicate flake.  At this age, the technical definitions aren't as valuable as the experience itself. Still, the very fact that a snowflake's shape arises in relation to its environment is a lesson I couldn't resist. 

Each little flake reflects the internal order of the water molecules and, like everything else, is determined by infinitely varying external circumstances.  Nothing in this world, including us, has completely inherent, autonomous existence.  Everything is dependent on and relational to something else and everything we do, every action we take, has a reaction somewhere else.  In Sanskrit this is called pratītyasamutpāda.  In English it's dependent co-arising... or in this case, dependent snow-arising!  When we see the world this way, we create an opportunity for the meaning of our lives to reach beyond ourselves and into a selflessness which links us with all humanity. 

John Muir spoke of this interdependence when he said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."  For a beautiful example involving water crystals, check out the EMOTO PEACE PROJECT

I couldn't think of a better way to discuss interconnectedness with a little one than comparing us to snowflakes. Our form, inside and out, is shaped by the world around us.  Our thematic unit in October was Pratītyasamutpāda, so she's had an intro to the subject already... but experiential learning, the snow itself, is the greatest teacher.

In so many ways, we're just like those snowflakes.  Infinitely affected by everything else.  Feeling the flakes falling gently on our faces reminded us that snow it just our own limitless being smiling back at us.  After all that oneness with the earth, it was time for that spelling test.  Somehow, I think this was the least important part of the day.  Amelie spelled nine out of ten words correctly and we ended our week with a new O word: snow.
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