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Drala Kids

photo of Opal Grimes, by Heather Grimes

by Heather Grimes

“The attitude of sacredness toward your environment will bring drala.”
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.

Weeks ago, Opal spotted a butterfly wing on our front lawn where the maple tree’s roots push up from beneath the soil. No body, just a single, canary-yellow wing, slightly torn at the edges. She caught sight of it from across the yard and shrieked butterfly! pitching herself in its direction with arms braced wide-open for a hug. When the butterfly didn’t fly away, she stopped short, skeptical.

It’s just the wing, sweetie. I told her. It’s not attached to a body so it can’t fly away.

Opal hold it? She asked.

The thing was as fragile as rice paper and destined to disintegrate within her enthusiastic clutch. So I offered to lay it in the garden where she could observe it as she walked by.

No—Right dere! Right dere! She’d already decided on the perfect spot for it to reside, at the base of a potted geranium by the front door. I put it exactly where her pudgy little finger indicated and she scurried off to grab a few seashells we had scattered in the garden.

Here. She said, nodding conclusively. She then set the seashells on the edge of the wing to hold it in place. (Or perhaps she hadn’t grasped that notion at all and simply thought the seashells would look nice, aesthetically.)

And that was that. Yet another ritual had sprung from the ether.

Now, she greets the wing nearly every time we enter the house, often going so far as to blow it a kiss or shout hi butterfly!

A moment like this is not at all uncommon, where Opal sculpts her reality into something sacred and personal to her. She stakes out patches of familiarity in the midst of this monstrously adult-sized and often uncontrollable world.

Opal loves garbage day, loves it. We often choreograph our morning walks on Thursdays to zig-zag a route through the neighborhood that achieves optimum viewing of the garbage trucks. If that doesn’t work, we stand on the front lawn and wave as they pass, like the only two people who’ve shown up for the parade. Our garbage man, Fernando, knows to expect us and generously obliges with a smile and a wave in return. Last week, we were tending to something in the back when he drove by and nearly missed him. But when we returned to the living room, we found that he had pulled up and paused in front of our house, awaiting our greeting! One might assume that Opal’s (and mine, by proxy) appreciation of him was something he’d come to look forward to receiving as part of his day.

These examples, and so many others like them, inspire me to declare my daughter to be an Ultimate Drala Magnet. All kids are. The term ordinary — as in boring, mundane — seem to exists in adult-minds only.

In Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche describes drala in the following way: “Drala is not a god or a spirit, but fundamentally it is connecting the wisdom of your own being with the power of things as they are. If you are able to connect these two things, out of that, you can discover the magic in everything.”

Opal greets the plums (she calls them “plumps”) that dangle from the tree out front as if they were a troop of old friends. A trip to the mall is no less harlequin to her than a trip down Sunset Boulevard at dusk. Airplanes, buses and gigantic trucks rank supremely high in her book, inspiring shrieks, pointing and if appropriate, running to gather a closer look.

On our walk this morning, she pointed to the chalk-blue sky and announced MOON! with as much fervor as someone announcing the landing of an alien spacecraft. Sure enough, there above our heads was the tiniest fingernail-sliver of the moon that I would most certainly have missed had she not pointed it into view. Allowing the water to run from the bathtub faucet into one of her plastic cups, and then another, brings to mind the glee of a Blackhawk gambler who’s just hit the jackpot on the slots. All sirens and glory!

Upon entering the library yesterday, Opal promptly walked up to another toddler who she’d never met before, a grumpy little girl with ringlets and a kool-aid mustache, and gave her a gentle head-on-the-shoulder hug. All the moms gasped at the moment’s radical tenderness and were bonded for life.

Opal didn’t learn this; this is as much her natural state of being as her ornery laugh and the way she walks with her little rump sticking out like her mama. If there were better evidence of our inherent Basic Goodness, I don’t know what it could possibly be.

In these sorts of instances I am reminded of just how much power these little ones have to inspire the adults in their midst to take notice of how they relate to their world, as well. I confess that the times I get most agitated with Opal come from a place of wanting her to align with my rhythm, my big, grown-up schedule, my the-clock-is-ticking approach. And, just like that, I am blind to a butterfly wing, blind to the moon and the ‘plumps’.

Right now Opal’s world is a veritable drala playground, a sort of heaven that exists before the prickles and dampeners of self-consciousness and doubt arise. Admittedly, magic is no longer at the forefront of my adult day, the motivation to drive all my thoughts and experiences, but I can still relish it when it appears. And though it’s not realistic for an adult to go back and set up camp in the mind of a two-year old, as her mother I have the delicious fortune of being a participating visitor, getting sprinkled and splashed in blessings simply by being in her radiant vicinity.

Heather Campbell Grimes is a full-time mama to a 2 year-old diva named Opal. She’s also a part-time massage therapist to a lovely group of elderly ladies. In the gaps, she is a member of the Boulder Shambhala Community and finds perspective on all things — right now, mainly parenting! — through writing. She loves to sew small things, read long books, bake zucchini muffins, shoot photos with actual film and stroll through the neighborhood at a meandering pace with her lovely husband and little girl. You can check out her blog at: thegrimesfamilychronicles.blogspot.com and other writings for Elephant Journal.

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8 responses to “ Drala Kids ”
  1. Richard Zuckerberg
    Sep 5, 2011

    I would like to borrow your insights and apply them, as you encourage, to the world of this adult, since this is, I think, what your observations are all about – that we, as adults, can learn from our children, and what it is that we learn. As you point out, “in these sorts of instances I am reminded of just how much power these little ones have to inspire the adults in their minds… And… that we need to work on not trying to “align (others) to our own rhythms.” Your ending message that the spirit that is out in front of us is to attain “connecting the wisdom of our (own) being with the power of things as they are. If you are able to connect these two things, out of that, you can discover the magic of everything.” In my own life, I read this in the context of the difficulties of accepting my wife, who for more than a decade has struggled with being overcome by a chronic disease. A good part of my struggle has been to accept the loss of who she was, and to see her as the person she is now. Like precious Opal, I continue to accept that butterfly wing, withered and torn, as having value in and of itself, the way it is now, not only to grieve the loss of who she was, but to continue to “sculpt” my own reality and value her presence just as she is. Thank you both.

  2. Wendy Friedman
    Sep 3, 2011

    This is beautiful, Heather. A good reminder, so nicely written, and makes me miss you & Opal.

  3. beautiful! Thank you for this blessing.

  4. Kelley Turner-Murray
    Sep 1, 2011

    I loved the whole essay but especially loved the part about the garbage trucks. My son loved to run to the door and watch the garbage truck (we all loved to follow our trash man down the street when we were kids). He would wave and jump for joy at the sight of the huge truck and just by coincidence he always seemed to have to use the trash compactor right in front of our house. When he started school, the first Thursday he wasn’t at the driveway the driver asked if he should wait a minute for him and when he found out he wouldn’t be there on Thursdays anymore he no longer did his compacting in front of our house. We still wave to each other though!

  5. Susan Bisbee
    Sep 1, 2011

    My nephew is the same way at the beach. Running from shell to shell and chasing little crabs so he can hug them. Fortunately, he is a little too slow to catch the crabs!!.

  6. Mindy Moore
    Sep 1, 2011

    Mommy-practice is a very powerful experience. You have expressed something that I have felt for a long time. This morning, my mommy-practice will shift as I take my youngest off to his first university experience! It never ends…thanks for your article, Heather!

  7. Travis May
    Aug 31, 2011

    This is so great!! Thank you for sharing. I want to be like Opal when I grow up.

  8. Kerry Schwartz
    Aug 31, 2011

    Wonderful! You are a lovely writer. The Vidyahara said that a work of art (dharma art) should bring about a sense of delight. And the magic that children see and know can inspire such delightful artistic expression as your article. The butterfly wing circle is such expression, a magical little installation! Thanks.

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