I woke this morning to the barest hint of light creeping up the sky behind the far houses on the eastern edge of my little subdivision, where the farmland begins. I had had a restless night, as I do sometimes when I feel my faith in “a benevolent Universe” as a friend of mine calls God, waivers. I have been ruminating lately, like a cow chewing her cud three times too long, over the meaning of life. My life, specifically.

I really don’t know what sets off a period of time like this, but I am ever so grateful when it comes to an end, usually in a profoundly simple way. I have been doing a couple of things differently every day that always help me shift if I will be patient and stick with it. The first thing I do after I get out of bed is go into my healing room, light a candle, put on some soothing music, and then meditate. I try to find some gratitude, first thing, for the new day.

A few minutes of meditation is enough, I tell myself, even if I’m mostly just sitting and thinking and doing everything but meditating. My body in the chair is an acceptable start. Then I read a bit of “spiritually uplifting” material such as a Rumi poem or two, or a bit of the “I AM” discourses, or perhaps the Bible. If I have the time, and sometimes if I don’t, I make myself write a line or two about what I’ve read in my daily journal. Less than a week of this will produce a lightening of spirit for me. I will begin to see the world in a brighter light again, regardless if outer circumstances have changed or not.

So it was today. I had put my recyclables out by the curb last night and this morning I found a few more things in my kitchen I could put in the bin in my driveway. It was very early, before the neighborhood was stirring, but the birds were singing and the light was that glorious yellow that comes with dry, cool air and altitude. A steady breeze blew through the mostly young, thin trees causing their trunks and branches to wave briskly across the sky. I held my breath for a minute, absorbing the texture of the air moving across my skin and the colors of the bright blue sky and the new green leaves on every limb.

My son’s birthday is in mid-May. When he was a little boy and the idea of weeks and months was still pretty much beyond him, I told him he would know that his birthday was getting closer once the leaves started coming out on the trees. He would know that his birthday was almost there as soon as all the trees had their new leaves, I said. He would get excited when I would point out the blanket of green emerging in the spring. “What day is coming soon?” I asked him.

“My bert-day!” he would exclaim.

This morning I thought again of that ritual we used to share, though it is long past the time I could hold him in my arms and point to the trees. He turned 22 a couple of weeks ago after all, on his journey to manhood and no longer a curly-haired toddler. When I was a girl and the old Maple trees in our front yard made shade again, I knew school would soon be out and summer would begin. Summer was my favorite season.

It’s this kind of gentle and life-affirming shift in thinking that I’m talking about that a few days of meditative practice miraculously produces. There is a part of me that gets discouraged if I watch too much news, or spend too much time alone and brood about all the “what ifs” and “if onlys” that will never come to be. I can lose perspective thinking about how my marriage ended or the gnawing fact that I still miss the family members who have passed away. Emotionally it’s kind of like taking a can of black paint and splashing it over everything indiscriminately.

So when I can look out the window and have my thought process arrested by the shimmering shadow of a tree, vibrating and undulating across the garage door of the house across the street, I celebrate. The part of who I am that is alive and well and joyful in each moment has come to the fore. With no conscious effort on my part, the melancholy dissipates. I have found my connection to God again.

Oh yes, and there is an added bonus to the leaves returning to the trees. It’s my birthday when they all come back, too. This year I turned 60.