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The gift of the ordinary

The young couple stands in the long ticket queue at Knott’s Berry Farm. Between the ticket kiosk and the main gate their two young boys–maybe ages five and six—are passing the time, playing, waiting for their parents. Their focus of attention: a family of Mallard ducks. A mom, dad and several new ducklings.
Because the ducks lived at the theme park, they were untroubled by the presence of people. And the boys are captivated by and enamored with the ducklings. So, take a guess. Where were the boys?
Yes, in the pond.
Did they take their shoes off? Not a chance.
The pond is shallow, and the boys are doing their best to be eye to eye with the ducklings; giggling and talking with the ducklings, their faces filled with unmitigated joy.
After a long wait and with tickets finally in hand, the parents walk up to find their boys in the pond. Let’s just say, that didn’t sit well.
They were overheard saying, rather loudly, “Boys, get up. Get out of there. We’ve got to get into the park and start having fun. Now!”
Okay. Some days I’m with the parents. But on most days, I want to learn how to be with the boys.
The woman who told me the story said she was reluctant to get in the pond, but tried to get as close as possible, in order to absorb the boy’s joy.
Amen. The magnetic power of the sacrament of the present.

Like every morning these days, I spend some time watching (and talking to) the families of ducklings (and goslings) in the pond near me. And I remember this story. Yes; there is nothing ordinary about the gift of the ordinary.

Every day, we are bombarded with the same insistent injunction–the implication that life begins someplace other that where we are right now.  And we too easily, miss the “duckling moments”.
It often happens on holiday weekends. When people are clamoring for activities and events that feel, after a very long year, “normal’.
Rediscovering wonder (or duckling moments) takes root in the soil of the simple sentence, “I never noticed that before.” I am welcoming, inviting life in, not allowing internal censors and judges to scrutinize, making certain that this moment passes muster. In moments of amazement, we render our internal scorekeeper mute. There is a good deal of conjecture about who merits this streak of luck and why. Some people get all the moments of astonishment. Or perhaps, like these young boys, they’ve allowed themselves to see.
Either way—and this is what is important to remember and take with us—these moments sustain us.
These moments create a fabric in our soul which absorbs daily miracles.

I confess to a knee-jerk urge or need to assign value (and therefore well-being) to events. Meaning that when I try to orchestrate the event (“get into the park”, “have fun”, “get out of there”, etc.), I miss what the moment offers me.
Although the moment may be bringing gladness or sadness, both are welcome.

Reading David Brooks’ column this week connected to where we find ourselves. “This is the moment to step back, be intentional and ask: What’s really important, and how should I focus on what matters? It’s a matter of ranking your loves and then making sure your schedule matches your rankings. ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,’ Annie Dillard once wrote.
People wear masks when they feel unsafe, and for more than a year, we were unsafe, and we had to wear masks. But the physical masks we wore were layered on top of all the psychological masks we had put on, out of fear, in the years before Covid.
Productivity is a mask. I’m too busy to see you. Essentialism is a mask. I can make all sorts of assumptions about you based on what racial or ethnic group you are in. Self-doubt is a mask. I don’t show you myself because I’m afraid you won’t like me. Distrust is a mask. I wall myself in because I’m suspicious you’ll hurt me.
As we take off the physical masks, it seems important that we take off the psychological masks as well. If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it is that we have more to fear from our inhibitions than from our vulnerabilities. More lives are wrecked by the slow and frigid death of emotional closedness than by the short and hot risks of emotional openness.”

It reminded me of a recent email, “What have you been learning during this past year?” And I responded, “More than ever, the invitation to wonder, and savor life in the moment. To be here now.”
I remember a statement made in the Irish Times by a Connemara man after he was arrested for a car accident. “There were plenty of onlookers, but no witnesses.”  Hmmm.
It’s like the tourists who religiously follow the advice of travel journals, and miss the unanticipated “sacred places.”  We’ve consumed many books or sermons about the correct way to live life (or to be invested). Which, sadly, we assume, is a life other than the one we have today.
In other words, we haven’t trusted that we are empowered to witness and savor this life.
The other invitation is the gift of vicarious joy, the communal nature of our journey (as the woman telling me the story learned).
When we move from his or her story to our story, our world becomes bigger. Our horizons and reams are expanded, keeping us from closed minds and hearts, which are the fuel for fear and paranoia and jealousy. And shame.
So. Just like the woman’s gratitude spilled in telling the duckling story to me and I pass it on, gratitude expands our world, and allows us to look our beyond our angst, to a world where we can create space, sanctuaries for mercy and wholeness and compassion and gentleness and empathy.
Our world becomes bigger, never smaller.
Allows for inclusion and inherent dignity.

I miss my garden, as May and June are, well, think chocolate ice cream and cake at the same time. And yet, the bigger “garden” where I now live, makes me smile real big.
This weekend visited Seal Rock Beach on the Hood Canal, in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. It’s a national forest campground located on salt water with harvestable oysters and clams for public use. I didn’t have any tools, but enjoyed watching the people. And that did my heart good.
I don’t know what you have planned for this summer, but I’d put duckling moments on the list.
And on this Memorial Day, Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom, and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.

Quote for your week…
Art is not simply works of art; it is the spirit that knows beauty, that has music in its soul and the color of sunsets in its handkerchief, that can dance on a flaming world and make the world dance too. W.E.B. DuBoi


Today’s Photo Credit: Lupine, one of my favorites and the spring stalwart here in Washington. I can’t get enough. Keep sending your photos… send to [email protected]
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In the mailbag…
–Hi Terry, I enjoy my SM Daily from you so much! Somehow today was especially good for me! Being made aware that all of us have a light within and we are told to let it come forth! You said it so well, and I thank you!  Sending you love & wishing you continued blessings on this ministry! Katie
–Just wanted to share with you that my district superintendent once told me he was going to teach me how to say no in seven languages. My spiritual director said, what good would that do you when you don’t use the one you know. Oh well, thank you for your devotions that are always a gentle reminder. Sharon 

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How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. –Annie Dillard

May the blessing of light be on you–
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it.
And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the rain be on you,
may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
And may the blessing of the earth be on you,
soft under your feet as you pass along the roads,
soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.
May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly;
up and off and on its way to God.
And now may the Lord bless you,
and bless you kindly. Amen.
Old Scottish Blessing

Written in a Carefree Mood
Old man pushing seventy,
In truth he acts like a little boy,
Whooping with delight when he spies some mountain fruits,
Laughing with joy, tagging after village mummers;
With the others having fun stacking tiles to make a pagoda,
Standing alone staring at his image in the jardinière pool.
Tucked under his arm, a battered book to read,
Just like the time he first set out to school.
Lu Yu, 12th-century Chinese poet

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