Not that long ago, I danced with manatees. Lord have mercy, it was good.
I was in Manasota Key, Florida, my annual May gathering with my friends of forty years. We swap stories and talk about the way the world would be if we were in charge. On the Intracoastal Waterway, near a congregation of mangrove trees, we anchor the boat and spend an afternoon floating, buoyed in the water, a treat for those of us who are escaping winter’s chill. The sky is dyed hope-blue, and egrets pose graceful and elegant in the mangroves.
Manatees are curious and unafraid of humans. They are gentle, docile, and friendly. So, without announcement, they swim near and around you, to check out the visitors to their world. One manatee swam under my feet, literally lifting me up, as if to welcome me. Oh my.
This is a first for me. I had heard stories. And yet, no mental framing prepares you. I do know this; in that moment, as my laughter echoes in the mangrove trees, as the cares of my day dissipate, I am fully awake and fully alive. And grateful.
My senses are grounded to this sacrament.
This present moment.
This gift. This clarity.
This permission to savor life now goes with me into my day.
But here’s the deal: in order to receive the gift, I needed to pause.
I needed to stop… and pay attention.
The reminder from our story in yesterday’s Sabbath Moment. In one poignant scene in the movie Fearless, Huo is working in the fields planting rice. He is still fueled by a need to compete with his coworkers. Still driven by a compulsion to finish first, and his work motions are manic.
The wind freshens, a breeze blows, and the tree leaves rustle.
His coworkers (in fact, all the workers in the entire village) stop what they are doing.
They close their eyes.
They feel the breeze on their faces.
They find refreshment.
For this moment, it is enough.
So. For this week, these are our questions…
Tell me, where are you replenished and hydrated?
Where do you sense awe and wonder?
Where are you comforted by ordinary gifts of grace?
When did you give yourself the permission to pause, to see and to savor the gift of enough.
Replenished, we can honor our capacity (inner core) fueled by grace and sufficiency, and not scarcity.
Replenished we can honor our capacity for mindfulness.
Replenished we can embrace now… the sacrament of the present moment.
Replenished we can honor the gift of awe, seeing the ordinary as the hiding place for the holy.
I was buoyed, reading this; “Yesterday I had a good morning. Once again when I recollect myself, I again find the same simple demands of God: gentleness, humility, charity, interior simplicity; nothing else is asked of me. And suddenly I saw clearly why these virtues are demanded, because through them the soul becomes inhabitable for God and for one’s neighbor in an intimate and permanent way. Hardness and pride repel, complexity disquiets. But humility and gentleness welcome, and simplicity reassures.” (Raissa Maritain’s journal entry from the early 1900s)
Here’s the deal: spirituality is not about a lottery ticket to the next life, but a front-row-center ticket to this one. Which is easier to preach than to practice in times like these.
And I defer to Pope Francis for the response, “Take care of the now for the sake of tomorrow.”
How do we do that? Our values, those at our core (gentleness, humility, charity, interior simplicity) tether us.
Count me in. I want to take care of now, reinforcing, nourishing and replenishing that core.
A young man boarded an overnight train in Europe. He was told, “There have been a lot of recent thefts. We take no responsibility for any loss.”
This worried the young man, because he carried a lot of stuff.
So, he lay awake, fearing the worst, staring at his stuff.
Finally, at 3 am, he fell asleep. Waking with a start twenty minutes later, he saw that his stuff was gone. He took a deep breath. “Thank God,” he said. “Now I can sleep.”
So, here’s my question; What is it that we carry (so dutifully) that keeps us from savoring?
From living awake and present?
The list seems longer these days (including things we didn’t sign up for).
Let us pause, shall we? Not to give ourselves grief for the stuff we carry, but to be replenished and hydrated by gratitude, and to savor the journey (comforted by ordinary gifts of grace) without focusing on where we “should be”.
And two quotes to carry with you today…
“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted – a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” Rabbi Harold Kushner
“Let us not get so busy or live so fast that we can’t listen to the music of the meadow or the symphony that glorifies the forest. Some things in the world are far more important than wealth; one of them is the ability to enjoy simple things.” Dale Carnegie
An American traveler planned a long safari to Africa. He was a compulsive man, loaded down with maps, timetables, and agendas. Coolies had been engaged from a local tribe to carry the cumbersome load of supplies, luggage and “essential stuff.”
On the first morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far. On the second morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far. On the third morning, they all woke very early and traveled very fast and went very far. And the American seemed pleased. On the fourth morning, the jungle tribesmen refused to move. They simply sat by a tree. The American became incensed. “This is a waste of valuable time. Can someone tell me what is going on here?”
The translator answered, “They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.”
One of my favorite stories to tell about creating space to be replenished and hydrated. To gives ourselves the permission to pause, to be here now.
And yes, I tell the story mostly for my own benefit. Just saying’. I am frequently asked, “What specifically can we do to keep sane in a world that sometimes feels upside down?”
Here’s my answer. “Let’s give ourselves the permission to let our soul catch up.” And I’m smiling (because I don’t easily practice what I preach), knowing that this has never been easy for me.
When the daughter of artist Howard Ikemoto turned seven years old, she asked her father, “What do you do at work?”
Ikemoto told her, “I work at a college, where my job is to teach people how to draw.”
She stared back at her father, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”
Yes indeed, we do forget.
Pascal’s reminder, “By means of a diversion, we can avoid our own company 24 hours a day.”
So. To remember, we can be like the villagers in Monday’s Sabbath Moment…
They close their eyes.
They feel the breeze on their faces.
They embrace replenishment.
And for this moment, it is enough.
Prayer for our week…
When the world feels hopeless and heartless,
take a moment to look around.
There are beautiful humans everywhere,
often hiding in plain sight in cabs,
on buses, in cafes, on trains, in libraries,
on park benches, in laundromats, on subways.
They may not be rich or well-educated.
They may be broken and hurting themselves.
They may not have much to offer
in terms of worldly goods.
But they are the comforters, encouragers, sharers,
teachers, servers, healers, mentors, connecters,
helpers, and counselors who keep
the random hurting humans,
the weary and the lost,
the invisible sufferers who walk among us every day,
going just long enough
to find their hope and strength again.
It doesn’t take a degree or wealth
or a grand gesture to make a
difference in this world.
It just takes a human who cares.
Photo… “Hi Terry, This photo was taken on a recent hiking trip to the Canadian Rockies. Yes, the water is this blue and the scene caused me to stand and stare in awe at God’s amazing gift.” Debby Eiler-Crumb…