How beautiful the things are that you did not notice before!
A few sweetclover plants
Along the road to Bellingham,
Culvert ends poking out of driveways,
Wooden corncribs, slowly falling,
What no one loves, no one rushes towards or shouts about,
What lives like the new moon,
And the wind
Blowing against the rumps of grazing cows.
~Robert Bly from “Like the New Moon I Will Live My Life”
Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. …to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.
~Abraham Joshua Hershel
Simply driving to work becomes a sacramental act. This is not the hour long dense traffic commute I tolerated in the city thirty years ago – this is thirty minutes of noticing the expanse of the land against the sky, the light as it banishes the darkness, the harmony of animals existing on the soil.
It is a sacrament to notice “what no one loves, no one rushes towards or shouts about” and never take it for granted. It is all gift; it is all grace.
I waited. I don’t know for what.
Sometimes I’d sit so long the sun would sink,
a fiery stare blinking shut beneath the horizon,
and the drooping electric wires would borrow the dark
until the dark seeped back into the sky. And when stars
surfaced like needles piercing through velvet,
I’d hold myself back just a moment more.
What made me feel watched in the naked field?
I was paying close attention and could discern only
a begging to be cloaked and a begging to be released.
~Jennifer Grotz from “The Field”
As I age I observe the world in a new way,
my eyes scanning for the unnoticed and plain,
not just the dramatic and majestic,
sometimes just sitting still as witness to each moment.
I preserve that which will keep for another day,
like a jar of canned peaches in my root cellar,
so I won’t forget, and in a darker time be cloaked once again
when I taste its sweetness.
I know from experience that when I allow busy little doings to fill the precious time of early morning, when contemplation might flourish, I open the doors to the demon of acedia. Noon becomes a blur – no time, no time – the wolfing down of a sandwich as I listen to the morning’s phone messages and plan the afternoon’s errands.
When evening comes, I am so exhausted that vespers has become impossible. It is as if I have taken the world’s weight on my shoulders and am too greedy, and too foolish, to surrender it to God.
~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries
These are days with no breathing room,
no time to stop and appreciate each moment
as a bud about to burst into bloom.
And it is my fault
that I’m not breathing deeply enough~
simply skimming the surface
in my race to the end of the day
as time’s petals, so open, so brilliant, so eternal
close up unseen and unknown.
The hen flings a single pebble aside
with her yellow, reptilian foot.
Never in eternity the same sound–
a small stone falling on a red leaf.
The juncture of twig and branch,
scarred with lichen, is a gate
we might enter, singing.
The mouse pulls batting
from a hundred-year-old quilt.
She chewed a hole in a blue star
to get it, and now she thrives…
Now is her time to thrive.
Things: simply lasting, then
failing to last: water, a blue heron’s
eye, and the light passing
between them: into light all things
must fall, glad at last to have fallen.
~Jane Kenyon “Things”
Things we think will last won’t.
As transient as a storm-birthed rainbow,
Light passes between things and us,
illuminating a pathway
to something far more lasting.
So we follow, falling, always falling,
failing ourselves to last
until lifted up into the light
Gladly we reflect the Light
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
There is a second or two in each day
(and some days I must watch hard for it)
when there is a moment of illumination
like a multitude of flashing torches,
when I can see just beyond what is here and now.
It feels like a 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.
Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
that witnessing presence.
~Denise Levertov “Witness”
Even on the days like today when the mountain is hidden behind a veil of clouds, I have every confidence it is there. It has not moved in the night, gone to another county, blown up or melted down. My vision isn’t penetrating enough to see it through cloud cover today, but it will return to my line of sight, if not tomorrow, perhaps the next day. I know this and have faith it is true.
On the days when I am not bothering to look for it, too preoccupied so walk right past its obvious grandeur and presence, then it is reaching out to me and calling me back. There are times when I turn a corner on the farm and glance up, and there it is, a silent and overwhelming witness to beauty and steadfastness. I literally gasp at not noticing before, at not remembering how I’m blessed by it being there even at the times I can’t be bothered.
It witnesses my lack of witness and still stays put to hold me fast yet another day. And so I keep coming back to gaze, sometimes just at clouds, yearning to lift the veil, and lift my veil, just one more time.
“‘What day is it?’, asked Winnie the Pooh.
‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet.
‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh.”
~A.A. Milne from The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Saturday is usually everyone’s favorite day of the week: it’s usually sleep-in day, catch-up day, play-hard day, enjoy-everything-about-it day.
Yup, me too.
A day to meander, gaze off into the horizon, acknowledge one’s blessings and then fall asleep blissful in the food bowl.
Saturday is the one day of the week I keep unplanned from start to finish with no particular choreography or have-to places to go.
Just a day to be.
I know Pooh and Piglet are right. Any day is our favorite day simply because it is Today: a new start, a time to celebrate, an undeserved gift of time to be unwrapped the moment our eyes open in the morning.
Today. A time to be.