Ease into the quiet
This morning, we woke to our second day of snow. Out at the pond, a Great Blue Heron, poised elegant and stylish, patiently waits for breakfast.
The sky is filled with a flotilla of tiny parachutes, floating (more like dancing), quietly from the heavens. These are whopping snowflakes (I’m pretty sure that must be the technical term), and as the snow clings to the bare branches of Hydrangea, Rhododendron buds and the delicate lace of western red cedar, I can’t decide if I’m seeing cotton balls or small scraps of fabric.
I know we’re not the only ones still in winter. Reports vary, but I know many of you with ice and hazardous conditions. Instinctively I reach for my phone to dial my Dad. He loved to follow the weather where his children live. So, I wanted to compare snow levels, something a Puget Sounder can never win with a Michigander. But today, I think I have a chance. It took me a minute to realize my Dad couldn’t answer his phone. But, I smile, knowing he was looking down.
I love our white landscape of luxuriant and pristine fleece—over 6 inches of snow—as if carefully outlined and demarcated by the ghost of Ansel Adams.
On my walk this morning, there is only the sound of boots scrunching in the snow. And when you stop, there is silence. As if the whole world stops with you. I savor the moment. Even the geese are quiet today. They too, are enjoying the pause.
This invitation (and permission) to pause and savor comes with some internal protest. You know, “it’s okay to savor for a little while, as long as I remember to not waste too much time, because I need to get back to work, etc.” After all, shouldn’t savoring be time-limited? “Let’s not get too carried away,” I hear the voices from my childhood religion, putting the kibosh on anything resembling joy, elation, delight or ecstasy. Or heaven forbid, “wasted time.”
Gratefully, that’s the magic of a snowstorm.
While it may not be a lot of snow for many parts of the country, it’s a lot for here, and unlike the upper peninsula of Michigan, all of our neighbors don’t have snowplows on the front of their pickup truck. Meaning; those of us who drive a Prius will be snowed in for a day or two. Which is a gift in an odd sort of way. The permission to “spend” the day a little differently. (Maybe find the cross-country skis, okay where’d I put the boots?)
The other variation of interruption is our knee jerk expectation that all we need is “good advice” to take us someplace other than where we are right now (and our wellbeing will be right round the corner). I get the temptation and the urge to repair or grow. But all of that begins by taking ownership and being at home in our own skin; the skin that is making those choices. Easy? No. Worth it? Yes. So, let’s begin here: Be gentle with yourself.
I confess that’s not easy for me. I still have that small voice, (well, not so small), loud and unmistakable, and carrying a placard with the word “should”, the message that for me, grace is in short supply.
I saw an article about people who are shunning cell phones. “They will find me if they need me,” said one man. The article quoted a lawyer who practices Shabbat, turns off his cell phone and computer and email on Friday at sundown.
He’s got the right idea. And that part resonates with all of us. SIMPLIFY.
To that I say Amen. Except that the next thing you know, we make an assignment and duty out of it, as if there will be a test. Lord have mercy. It reminds me of an out-of-the-box take on the Sermon on the Mount:
And Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
And Simon Peter said, “Do we have to write this down?”
In the end, what happens? We focus on the endeavor of simplifying, instead of… well, just simplifying. (Or in the words of Guillaume Apollinaire, “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness, and just be happy.”)
I heard a great story about an older man who stopped at a church in the late afternoon, every day after work. The man would sit in the back pew. For a good bit of time, sitting still and silent, looking straight ahead. After time had passed, the man would get up and leave. The parish curate was quite puzzled by this regular visitor. One day he decided to ask. “I’m wondering sir, why you come here. You have no prayer book. You have no Bible. You carry no Rosary. Your lips do not move while you sit. You are clearly not praying. So, what is it?”
The man answered the curate, “Well, I come here every afternoon, usually after a long and tiring day. I stop here to pray. So, I just sit here and look at Him, and while I’m sitting here, He just looks at me.”
Looking for insight in all of this is a good way to miss the moment.
You never see a child step back from playing and say, “Oh, so that’s what I experienced.”
Visited by a memory from a storm many years ago. We needed to take the afternoon ferry from Seattle to our island. I was cold and ornery. Zach is shuffling along in the snow, past a cluster of waiting commuters huddled together for warmth. They reminded me of a waddle of penguins, huddled and somber. Zach is kicking snow, oblivious to the downside of this weather or this moment. He is repeating, over and over, “This is so great. This is soooo great.”
Here’s the deal: We simplify our lives not by theory or a 7-step-program for life management. We simplify when we follow the example of the old man on the back pew. We simplify, when we sit a spell. The power of pause; to ease us into the quiet and the gift of grace.
In Eugene O’Kelly’s, Chasing Daylight, he writes about the last three months of his life. O’Kelly reinforces what we all know to be true. This moment, I have a choice. I can receive the gift of life and embrace it, and immerse myself in it. Or, continue to live in oblivion, asleep, distracted, and waiting. And in the process, we bury the very things that might set us free (borrowing from Stephen Levine). Such as stopping, stillness, listening, hearing, tasting, touching, seeing, smelling and embracing. And delighting.
Speaking of embracing and delighting, Happy Valentine’s Day to all. Our time to celebrate romance and love and kissy-face fealty. Fair enough. But you know the origins of this festival of candy and cupids are actually dark, bloody—and a bit muddled… Okay, better to leave that for another Sabbath Moment.
Quote for your week…
You can hear the footsteps of God when silence reigns in the mind. Sri Sathya Sai Baba
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In the mailbag…
–Good Morning, I see this as an opportunity to express gratitude for gifts given and your words are certainly a gift on so many levels and for so many reasons. Please know the gift of you. Open the gift. Trust the gift. Believe the gift. “The blessings for which we hunger are not to be found in other places or people. These gifts can only be given to you by yourself. They are at home in the hearth of your soul.” (John O’Donohue) Happy Valentines, Linda
–Hi Terry, Thank you so much for this Sabbath Moment today! I have a folder named “happiness” on my computer in which I place documents that bring me happiness when I read them, and for years this “happiness” folder has been filled with documents (pdf copies of notes from my children, trail maps, words of wisdom, articles, humorous things, etc.) that bring happiness only to me when I see them. Today is different, I believe that I can use your Sabbath Moment to possibly help bring happiness to not only myself but also to others that have been or may in the future be broken/feel broken, and is being added to my “happiness” folder for not just me. Kintsukuroi is an art that I believe that I can introduce to others, including my middle school religious education students, and let them know the understanding that as they go through life that they, like a repaired piece of pottery, may be more beautiful for having been broken. Thank you for all that you do, and may God continue to Bless You and Yours! Jill
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
Nothing is more contagious than genuine love and genuine care. Nothing is more exhilarating than authentic awe and wonder. Nothing is more exciting than to witness people having the courage to fight for their highest vision. Michael Lerner
The Guest House by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
—Copyright 1997 by Coleman Barks. All rights reserved.
From The Illuminated Rumi.
I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.