A small art gallery near Lake Galway in Ireland holds an exhibition with local art. A poet of no small renown drops by to view it. As he finishes his perusing, a local farmer arrives. Once a year, the farmer visits the gallery. He lives on the shores of Loch Corrib. The gallery owner introduces the men.
The poet gladly revisits the exhibition with the farmer, pointing out intricacies and hidden symbolism. The farmer listens carefully. When finished, the farmer says, “Thank you. That was interesting, and you showed me things I would have never noticed. You have a wonderful eye. It is a great gift. I envy your gift, I don’t have that gift myself. But I do have Teannalach.”
“What is Teannalach?” The poet asks.
“I live beside the lake,” the farmer tells him. “And you always hear the ripple of the waters and the sound of wind on the water; everyone hears. However, on certain summer days when the lake is absolutely still and everything is silent, I can hear how the elements and the surface of the lake make magic music together.”
A week or so later, the farmer’s neighbor comes in the gallery. The owner asks about the word Teannalach. “Oh yes, they have that world up there. I’ve never seen it written down, so it’s hard to say what it means. I suppose it means awareness, but in truth it is about seven layers deeper.”
When Thomas Merton “left public life” to join the Trappists, he wrote, “I am not physically tired, just filled with a deep, vague, undefined sense of spiritual distress, as if I had a deep wound running inside me and it had to be stanched.”
Okay, I know that wound. Which is why I love the reason for his choice for change. Being drawn to a silent and ascetic life was not just to “get away,” or run from life’s chaos. “(Life),” Merton wrote, “fills me with awe and desire.”
Okay, count me in.
Maybe not the Trappist part, although, on second thought, in my heart I do come very close.
There are many reasons, we may feel empty, distracted, overwhelmed or isolated. Sometimes we know why. Sometimes we don’t. Of course, we worry about what we “did” wrong, assuming that there is something we need to “do” to fix it. And, we are taken aback when instructions (teaching or preaching) don’t seem to work out.
Never Cry Wolf is the story of Canadian Farley Mowat, sent to the northern tundra to study the impact of wolves on the diminishing Caribou herd. This clueless non-native, humors the locals, as they are certain he will meet his bleak death by cold, or wolves, or both. Farley survives and the land, the people and animals that live there, shape his life. The cinematography is dramatic; vistas of grandeur, peaks majestic and landscapes frozen, bleak and austere. While the movie is about “wolves,” it is also about Farley’s new “eyes,” as he is being “reintroduced to wonder.”
Yes, I like that; reintroduced. Meaning that something happened to diminish our capacity for awe, to savor and to cherish.
In our attention economy, diminishment is no surprise, as we are daily bombarded to numbness. A kind of detachment.
So, here’s my question: what does the reset button look like for us today?
The permission to Pause. In order to see wonder, joy, awe.
This is the power of all the stories above: without exception, the gift of wonder breaks down the barrier.
This is my prayer for each of us. To continually be reintroduced to wonder. What Merton embraced. The gift of Teannalach.
Let’s unpack this. This isn’t a skill set to add to our repertoire. Or a check list to complete. Farley Mowat practiced a paradigm shift; Proust’s invitation, the “real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
New eyes to see the gifts of wonder.
So. This week… our invitation to have new eyes, knowing that the ordinary the hiding place for the holy.
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” Thích Nhất Hạnh
Reading this, some will say to me, “It’s easy to write, but there’s so much wrong in our world that needs fixing. We don’t have the time for wonder.”
Which begs the question, if not now, when is the time for wonder?
This explains why I may not see the connection between groundedness—awareness, immersed in the sacred present—and my capacity to care. To embrace wonder, rejoice, grieve, weep. To reach out, give, serve, replenish and restore.
You see, here’s the deal: Groundedness (the sacred present) marries gratitude, and spills, becoming generosity and transformation. And I want to share this gift of wonder. “Did you see that?” “Did not our hearts burn within us?”
Awareness (rediscovering) begins here. We are at home in the sacred present. And I can tell you that the gardener in me comes alive, because grounded begins with actual ground; to this time and this place. Here, I am on the lookout for wonderment and gladness. Sometimes, literally, arrested by beauty.
And, this someplace (this grounded and sacred place), may be literally where we are standing right now. Moments of joy. Gladness. Yes, with awe and desire.
In our neck of the woods, our ice and snow are gone. Now rain and more rain, but we will take it, with gratitude.
My morning ritual, an hour walk through the forest, for exercise yes, but to see the little things, gifts of wonder, easy to miss in my preoccupied world.
Later this week, I look forward to being back on Vashon Island for a visit, and guest preaching next Sunday at the Burton Church. Join us.
As a new year gift to yourself or a friend, enjoy our eCourses, all free for our Sabbath Moment community.
Quote for your week…
I used to have this appetite for my life, and it’s just gone. I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something. Elizabeth Gilbert
Today’s Photo Credit: “Terry, This is west Vancouver on Wednesday at the end of a dreary day when we were treated with a sun shower reminding us that sun and rain together can make for great beauty that each alone cannot bring. Thank you for your sabbath daily moment which is like a rainbow moment every day sun or rain! Don’t freeze out in this very uncharacteristic PNW cold snap.” Jim Bovard (Vancouver, BC, Canada)… Thank you Jim… And thank you to all, I love your photos… please keep sending them… send to terryhershey.com
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Thank you, Terry, for your consistent presence in my life. This Christmas I am struggling through the aftereffects of a stroke, which has left me with vision issues. Reading, writing, and general mental processing are difficult. Your message on this holy day warmed my heart and restores my hope. Thank you. Helen
–Love this Terry Hershey. I’m enjoying your A Place For Sanctuary Daily Dose. It really touched my heart! Thank you very much! Coleen
–A local Dallas preacher named Zan Holmes gave a sermon on the Samaritan story from the perspective of the person who needed help. It required a level of trust for him to accept that help. We all must trustingly accept the help that God brings to us. We need to learn that we can put all our weight on that bridge. The opinion of that needy person about the folks who passed him by would be irrevocably reset. Ron
–Happy Tuesday Terry. So I just became a partner of yours–I’m the one who’s way behind on SM and just read your End of the Year Gratitude email. I’m the Beginning of the Year Gratitude! Thank you for bringing me God’s grace, peace, mercy, and love through your SM words. Blessings of Faith And Courage! Laura
–Dear Terry, Thank you so much for your amazing ministry of SM. Both my wife, Arceli, and I look forward to these weekly reflections, insights, questions, poems and memorable quotes. As a deacon in a large member Catholic parish, I often discover wonderful insights and perspectives that I can weave into my homilies. I love your stories. Please keep on doing what you are doing. We who are “out here” struggling to connect Scripture with our people’s daily struggles – need you. My prayers are with you. Deacon David
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Honey Of My Failures
Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreampt – marvelous error! –
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
May I never not be frisky,
May I never not be risqué.
May my ashes, when you have them, friend,
and give them to the ocean,
leap in the froth of the waves,
still loving movement,
still ready, beyond all else,
to dance for the world.