Monday, March 23, 2009


You have probably been asked the tricky question: “ Is the glass half empty of half full?” Your answer is suppose to indicate whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. There was no room for my answer. “Both.”
It is all relative. If the glass was empty and you filled it half way then it is half full. If the glass was full of water and you drank half of it it would be half empty.
Does my answer to this question, making me neither an optimist nor a pessimist, make me a realist, or just confused?
I was in The UW Bookstore the other day. A great bookstore ( remember bookstores?). I saw a book about Helen Mirren, one of my favorite actresses. I didn’t pick it up but looked at it where it stood on the “ Employee’s Picks” shelf. I can not remember the title, nor the subtitle though it went something like this: “ The story of a Woman who lives her life to the Full”. I myself have been battling my own life’s “fullness”. Way to busy. Way to many projects lingering around the edges, too many places to go. Now I don’t want to sound like a complainer, I would certainly rather be handed a full glass than an empty one. Maybe it’s a mid-life thing making me wonder if I’m half empty or half full. Just as we admire those who live “life to the full”, we ceratinly , or at least some of us, admire those who are empty, like the glowing example of beautiful emptiness Shodo Harada Roshi, a japanese zen master who visits the Northwest frequently. I bet he likes a full cup of tea, just like Helen Mirren needs her some empty moments in her full schedule.
Just a few days ago we celebrated, along with the Persians whose new year it is, the first day of spring. Nothing speaks of half empty and half full like the equinoxes do. The days and nights are equal, briefly. Already today 3 days after the equinox the days are already longer, the nights shorter. On the spring equinox I looked at the garden. I was nearly to the end of my winter clean up, nearly ready for spring. I’m running a little behind this year, but so is spring, winter lingers around though officially banished. The garden feels empty but only half so. I’ve cleared space for all the new growth that will certainly be coming, we are on the optimistic side of the question watching the garden fill. Even in these chilly temperatures daffodils open and pulmonarias uncurl their inflorescences. Buds swell on the trees I pruned, and soon birds and blossoms, then leaves will fill the gaps I made.
In the garden it is not a question of optimism or pessimism, empty or full. It is the filling up and emptying out. It is the flux that is the answer. From bare branches to shady canopy, from hidden bulbs to tulips. From petal drop to red apples. Here we go.
I have a friend who lived in Hawaii. I was envious of his life in ‘Paradise’. He said he could never get used to the strange foliage and the fact that everything was so full all the time. We share nordic ancestry, so I understood what he said and wondered how much I would miss the change of the seasons the emptiness of winter being replaced by the filling of spring.
I am happy to have an empty glass in front of me, only an empty glass can be filled. I am happy to be sitting in the empty garden, knowing it will fill. I guess I’m an optimist after all.