Our memories are, at best, so limited, so finite, that it is impossible for us to envisage an unlimited, infinite memory, the memory of God. It is something I want to believe in: that no atom of creation is ever forgotten by him; always is; cared for; developing; loved. ~Madeleine L’Engle from The Summer of the Great-Grandmother
…a friend told me a story about a little girl who wanted time alone with her infant brother. Her parents were suspicious of her motives. What if she did something to harm the baby? The big sister was so persistent that her mom and dad finally decided to allow her ten minutes alone with him in his room. After they closed the door, they listened quietly. They felt chills when they heard their daughter say, “Baby tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” ~Sue Shanahan from “Fresh from Heaven”
He of strength and hope, of infinite memory and everlasting love: He knows us down to our very atoms ~~ even we who are weak, broken, and undeserving. He causes us to burst into bloom in remembrance of having been in His presence.
We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.….A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, ‘There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,’ is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves. ~Annie Dillard from Life Magazine’s “The Meaning of Life”
I can feel overwhelmed by the amount of “noticing” I need to do in the course of my work every day. Each patient deserves my full attention for the few minutes we are together. I start my clinical evaluation the minute I walk in the exam room and begin taking in all the complex verbal and non-verbal clues sometimes offered by another human being. What someone tells me about what they are feeling may not always match what I notice: the trembling hands, the pale skin color, the deep sigh, the scars of self injury. I am their audience and a witness to their struggle; even more, I must understand it in order to best assist them. My brain must rise to the occasion of taking in another person and offering them the gift of being noticed. It is distinctly a form of praise: they are the universe for a few moments and I’m grateful to be part of it.
Being conscious to what and who is around me at all times is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. I must reduce the expanse of creation to fit my limited synapses, so I can take it all in without exploding with the overload, to make sense of the “mess” around me and within me.
Noticing is only the beginning. It concludes with praise and gratitude.
Light splashed this morning on the shell-pink anemones swaying on their tall stems; down blue-spiked veronica light flowed in rivulets over the humps of the honeybees; this morning I saw light kiss the silk of the roses in their second flowering, my late bloomers flushed with their brandy. A curious gladness shook me.
So I have shut the doors of my house, so I have trudged downstairs to my cell, so I am sitting in semi-dark hunched over my desk with nothing for a view to tempt me but a bloated compost heap, steamy old stinkpile, under my window; and I pick my notebook up and I start to read aloud the still-wet words I scribbled on the blotted page: “Light splashed . . .”
Oh that I once past changing were, Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither! Many a spring I shoot up fair, Offering at heaven, growing and groaning thither; Nor doth my flower Want a spring shower, My sins and I joining together.
And now in age I bud again, After so many deaths I live and write; I once more smell the dew and rain, And relish versing. Oh, my only light, It cannot be That I am he On whom thy tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of love, To make us see we are but flowers that glide; Which when we once can find and prove, Thou hast a garden for us where to bide; Who would be more, Swelling through store, Forfeit their Paradise by their pride. ~George Herbert from “The Flower”
As they are meant to do, the crocuses have melted back to earth the winter snowdrops long gone, the orchard tree blossoms have shed their petals to become burgeoning cherries, pears and apples, the daffodils have come and gone, the tulips are falling apart in slow motion.
Spring in full swing Exhaustion replaced by renewal and fresh air now filled with the sweetness of growth and fruitfulness.
Our fields grow lush and soft with the sun warm on our horses’ withers.
It isn’t enough to celebrate the defeat of winter by blooming where we are planted; when we do fall apart, may we find ourselves never withering again.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:23-25
And as you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens. ~Stephen Graham from The Gentle Art of Tramping
That great door opens on the present, illuminates it as with a multitude of flashing torches. ~Annie Dillard (in response to the Graham’s quote) from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
When I pay attention (and usually I don’t), each day offers up a moment of illumination like a multitude of flashing torches, when we sense something beyond what is here and now.
It feels like an unspoken promise.
When I miss it, this opened door that is not a door~ too busy to notice- too blinded to see- having turned my face away, nevertheless it happens without my witness.
It saddens and gladdens my heart to know that it will be offered up again tomorrow, even though I once again may forget.
The sacred moments, the moments of miracle, are often the everyday moments, the moments which, if we do not look with more than our eyes or listen with more than our ears reveal only…a gardener, a stranger coming down the road behind us, a meal like any other meal. But if we look with our hearts, if we listen with all our being and imagination.. what we may see is Jesus himself. ~Frederick Buechner
We can be blinded by the everyday-ness of Him: A simple loaf of bread is only that. A gardener crouches in a row of weeds, restoring order to chaos. A wanderer along the road engages in conversation.
Every day contains millions of everyday moments lost and forgotten, seemingly meaningless.
We would see Jesus if we only opened our eyes and listened with our ears. At the table, on the road, in the garden.
The miracle of Him abiding with us is that it truly is every day.
Light chaff and falling leaves or a pair of feathers
on the ground can spook a horse who won’t flinch when faced with a backhoe or a pack of Harleys. I call it “horse
ophthalmology,” because it is a different kind of system— not celestial, necessarily, but vision in which the small,
the wispy, the lightly lifted or stirring threads of existence excite more fear than louder and larger bodies do. It’s Matthew
who said that the light of the body is the eye, and that if the eye is healthy the whole body will be full of light. Maybe
in this case “light” can also mean “lightness.” With my eyes of corrupted and corruptible flesh I’m afraid I see mostly darkness
by which I mean heaviness. How great is that darkness? Not as great as the inner weightlessness of horses whose eyes perceive,
correctly I believe, the threat of annihilation in every windblown dust mote of malignant life. All these years I’ve been watching
out warily in obvious places (in bars, in wars, in night cities and nightmares, on furious seas). Yet what’s been trying to destroy
me has lain hidden inside friendly-seeming breezes, behind soft music, beneath the carpet of small things one can barely see.
The eye is also a lamp, says Matthew, a giver of light, bestower of incandescent honey, which I will pour more cautiously
over the courses I travel from now on. What’s that whisper? Just the delicate sweeping away of somebody’s life. ~Gail Wronsky
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 14-16
Some days I am dreaming awake with wide-open eyes. There is a slow motion quality to time as it flows from one hour to the next to the next, and I can only take it in, watching it happen. Life becomes more vivid, as in a dream — the sounds of birds, the smell of the farm, the depth of the greens in the landscape, the taste of fresh plums, the intensity of every breath, the reason for being.
There is lightness in all things, as the Creator intended.
Yet much of the time is rush and blur like sleepwalking, my eyes open but unseeing. I stumble through life’s shadows, the path indiscernible, my future uncertain, my purpose illusive. I traverse heaviness and darkness, much of my own creation.