This week, we are on the lookout for small wonders (not a bad way to spend the day) embracing this new currency in our lives. Yes, embracing the sacrament of this present moment.
And yes, when life’s distractions keep us away from being in the present (you know, our minds going all “if only” and “when” on us), it is a good idea to pause. To “go back” (Sankofa)—to remember and revive.
So, in that way, Sankofa is a kind of freedom. And I appreciate the way Cole Arthur Riley identifies that freedom available to us… when we return to childlike awe and wonder.
“Children are made of awe. We have much to learn from them, but we seldom aim to. When we encounter the freedom of a child, we can choose to participate in their liberation, or we can grow to resent the freedom in them. The words childish and juvenile are made derogatory as we become overly concerned with the serious. It is a feigned superiority. The tragedy is that as we distance ourselves from the delight of our youth, we become increasingly prone to disillusionment. Wonder and beauty are not precise cures for disillusionment, but they certainly can stave off the despair of it. To reclaim the awe of our child-selves, to allow ourselves to be taken by the beauty of a thing, allows goodness to take up the space it’s often denied in our interior worlds….
As we grow older, the ‘serious’ becomes a simulacrum for wisdom and even honor. Impoverished by the honor withheld from us in childhood, we become very willing participants in a kind of spiritual maturation that honors the profound and grave, even at the expense of the simple and beautiful. In fact, the path to wonder is not sophistication or intellect or articulation; it is a clock wound backward…
My faith is held together by wonder—by every defiant commitment to presence and paying attention. I cannot tell you with precision what makes the sun set, but I can tell you how those colors, blurred together, calm my head and change my breath. I will die knowing I lived a faith that changed my breathing. A faith that made me believe I could see air.”
From Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us (New York: Convergent, 2022). (And thank you to the Center for Action and Contemplation.)
“With the coming of spring, I am calm again.” Thank you, Gustav Mahler.
You know, it’s not just the sunshine (although in our neck of the woods, this is when we start to see the sun again, so no small thing). And, truth be told, sunshine always helps.
However… for me, the calm settles in, because Spring encourages me (invites me, beckons me) to notice. Notice in a way I haven’t been.
And to notice, you start by slowing down. Yes indeed… the power of pause.
The blooms on the native cherry tree not far from our front door.
The way Irv and Dottie, the geese on the pond near our house, are protecting their nesting area.
The way the sunlight glows through the uppermost branches of the 250-foot Fir trees in the forest we see from our windows.
The new shoots on every plant in the garden.
And the reminder… “Small wonders, these are the currency of my life.” (Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver.)
I remember this scene from the movie Demolition, about a successful investment banker who struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. With the help of a customer service rep and her young son, he starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.
This admission resonated, “I started to notice things I never saw before. Maybe I saw them. I just wasn’t paying attention.”
Spring is Sankofa time – “it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” Or that which we may not have noticed…
So. What did you notice (see) today that made you smile real big?
What did you notice (see) today that did your heart good?
This week, writing about the currency of “small wonders”, I am treasuring the gifts of spring. And I mentioned the connection between spring and baseball. Which takes me back to the games of my youth (most every afternoon with my younger brother)—imagining we were the Detroit Tigers—in the large backyard of our home in southern Michigan. As the eldest I got to choose first, so I was always Al Kaline.
Writing this almost 60 years later, still brings joy to my spirit and a rekindling to my heart.
I remember the movie The Rookie (based on a true story) begins in Texas, where Jim Morris (played by Dennis Quaid) is a Texas high school chemistry teacher and coach of the school’s baseball team, his career path the result of a shoulder injury that prevented him from pursuing his own dream of professional baseball. Frustrated with his team’s play—and their tendency to “quit” or give up—Jim vents his frustration after one lopsided loss, “You better give some serious thought as to how you live out the rest of the season.”
“Why?” says one player, “what difference does it make?”
They turn the question around, and ask, “What about your dreams coach?”
“Scouts aren’t looking for high school science teachers,” he tells them.
As a way of motivating his players, Morris agrees to go to a professional try-out, if the team wins the championship. Inexplicably, they win. And Jim shows up at an open tryout (both his very young children in tow). An endeavor many considered crazy. Why? Because a 35-year-old man doesn’t play professional baseball. To add fuel to the doubt, his own father discourages Jim, telling him it is time to accept reality and put aside impossible dreams.
Fast forward. Morris is drafted by Tampa Bay, and given a shot to play for their minor league team. But the wear and tear of bus travel, keeping up with his wife and young children by pay phone, concern due to mounting bills (the pay in the minor leagues minimal), an aching body and a disquiet knowing that some of the organization’s younger prospects view him as a publicity stunt have all taken their toll, and his spirits sag.
He’s ready to call it quits. To give up. I’ve been there. Have you?
On the night before he heads home, he sees the lights from a little league ballpark. Morris stands at the center-field fence and watches as the young outfielder–maybe 10 years old–jogs out to his position during an inning change. As the two make eye contact, Morris nods and the boy grins.
Morris decides not to quit.
The next day in the locker room, he says to his young teammate and companion, with his own grin and high spirits, “You know what we get to do today Brooksie? We get to play baseball.”
Small wonders and a rekindled heart…
Speaking of baseball, for me, what a thrill watching the World Baseball Classic these past two weeks. In the final, Japan beat the United States, 3-2. And the final at-bat: Shohei Ohtani struck out Angels teammate Mike Trout on a full count to end it. You can’t make this stuff up.
Okay… maybe baseball is not your thing… but finding joy in small wonders is. So. Savor your moments. Be on the lookout. And let that child embrace the day, wholehearted.
A few small wonders moments today, although our weather decided to convey that Spring may need to wait a few days. Even so, the daffodils beamed and that did my heart good.
On my errands today, I stopped by a nursery (you know, those sacred places where you do a little dance or break into song while looking at plants). I stopped for bags of compost (the garden’s comforter), but decided to buy one plant; and chose an English Rose, Olivia Rose Austin. Old garden roses, no longer about primping but about soothing and a respite of calm.
Which all reminded me that small wonders cultivate joy.
And joy always puts us smack dab in the present. The sacrament of the present.
And I could hear Mary Oliver’s voice carry me through the day…
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
from Devotions © Penguin Press, 2017
Prayer for our week…
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the curragh of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
To Bless the Space Between Us
Photo… “Hi Terry, I had to share this photo from March 8th. A cross on Table Rock, Boise, Idaho shows through storm. It made my day! Thank you for all of your sage advice and “only God could provide” pictures.” Natalie Boyer…