The gift of small wonders
I love Spring. Since I was a young boy in Southern Michigan, I have loved Spring. Snow was okay, but in Spring the world felt vibrant; animated and renewed, colors, fragrance, blossoms and the passionate chatter of birds. (And, it’s time to play baseball.)
For me, Spring evokes Sankofa (in the Akan language of Ghana). It is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
Yes, and when life’s distractions keep us away from being in the present (our minds going “if only” and “when”) it is a good idea to “go back”—to remember and revive.
Here in the PNW, our garden is waking up, Iris reticulata (heart-warming purple) and ‘Tete-a-Tete’ daffodils (buttercup yellow). And yes, I do miss my island garden, but love having a place here I can put my hands in the dirt. And in the garden, the smile doesn’t leave my face. That is Sankofa… the invitation to remember and to embrace the healing power of “small wonders; (as) these are the currency of my life.” (Thank you Barbara Kingsolver.)
Amen. That’ll preach.
Speaking of small wonders… It was scheduled as “boy’s weekend out.” Five friends hurtling down the Colorado River, a white-water raft our ticket to peril and pleasure. We had been plotting this day, determining ways to make it a sport, a contest, talking big about our fearlessness and our desire for serious rapids. We were, after all, real men, all belly and bravado, and nature’s playground beckoned. The sun reigned high over an expansive Colorado mountain sky, endless and open, bleached of any rich or subtle hues. The sun baked our faces while continual sprays of river water baptized us with exhilaration. We whooped and cavorted and egged each other on. We looked forward to that evening in the Jacuzzi, beer in hand, telling and retelling the day, a forum for exaggeration and pure blarney about our exploits.
While the rafting crew worked to pull the raft from the water after our run was completed, I climbed the embankment and sat on a rock near the top, drinking in the warmth of afternoon. The area near me was littered with woody mountain shrubs. Something else caught my eye. Over the embankment to my left, growing from a ledge, stood a single clump of iris, sixteen inches high, a desert gemstone in a rich azure luster.
I scrambled down near the ledge–literally on my belly, my face near the flower–and gaped, frozen as if in the company of a magical snow leopard.
I confess to you that I touched its delicate falls like the face of a lover.
And then I didn’t exactly know who to tell or what exactly I would say: “Hey guys. Come up here and check out this flower!”
That would have gone over big.
I do know that my hand shook as if I were overcome with awe. And a line came to mind: “A great many people will live out their days without ever seeing such sights, or if they do, never gasping.” (Thank you again, Barbara Kingsolver.)
Small wonders indeed… And I felt lucky. And I knew. This is why I had come to Colorado. A single iris arresting something rudimentary in me. All my previous priorities paled. For neither my resume nor my clerical collar mattered one whit to that flower. For most of my life, my spiritual had depended upon answers. Sitting on an embankment above the Colorado River, I had none. Only the glow of a flower, the warmth of the sun, and the invigoration of the river’s energy and strength. I had only mystery and awe. And peace. For once there was no compulsion to explain, or clarify, or analyze.
Which meant that I was lost in the moment—what Jean-Pierre de Caussade (18th Century) called the Sacrament of the Present Moment—seeing each “present moment” as diffused with the sacred. It reminded me of Susanna Wesley’s immortal prayer, “Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church, or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation but that everywhere I am in Thy presence.”
So I sat for a spell in that presence, and at home. Here’s the quandary: How do you tell someone that you were unraveled by an iris? It’s not exactly fodder for small talk.
Like it or not, the card deck of life’s priorities is reshuffled in moments like that. Your resume takes a back seat, and you scramble up the embankment with a new posture, and a new frame of reference, knowing that your load is a little lighter even though you hold something new and sacred in your heart.
And while the Colorado River trip happened some years ago with friends (I tell the story in my book, Soul Gardening) I need it on my mental redial.
With so much of today’s news being fueled by fear and uncertainty, I wonder some days if my own passion and heart is being leached from me. My mind races. When that happens, my spirit is anxious and heavy. And I detach. It is a dark place in me that I do not like. Or maybe I don’t like that I’m susceptible. Either way, it numbs the part of my life and my spirit that is essential.
Today I needed a reminder of small wonders.
Because here’s the deal: when I stop to see small wonders, it is possible to reclaim the fruit of the sacrament of the present moment (of sanctuary)—light, open heart, open mind, kindness, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, kindheartedness, tolerance, gratitude, mercy, dignity, second chances and hope.
From that place—presence—we choose. And from that place, we are no longer detached, or victims.
Because presence is the currency for listening, embracing, and reclaiming that which has been forgotten.
Our word for this week; Sankofa. Let us be on the lookout for small wonders, embracing this new currency in our lives, embracing the sacrament of the present.
I chatted with the geese today. They love spring, nesting season and all.
And for March Madness followers, may the best team win.
Quote for our week–
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Howard Thurman
Today’s Photo Credit: “Dear Terry, Spring banquet at 9E Ranch Cabins Lost Pines, Bastrop, Texas.” Kent Bohls… Thank you Kent… Keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
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Letters that do my heart good…
–Hey Terry, Great to see you in Paris with a table view! Here in Chico we have had almost non-stopped rains. For over a month! No nearby flooding, thank God. Others in California not so lucky. Woke up to drops glittering one my Japanese Maple not sprouted yet: diamonds one the feet of her shoes! Just like than! And then of course, blessedly, this led me to find more diamonds… and more. Welcome home when you get there. Enjoy, Sky Ann
–Terry, Thanks for a ‘little moment’ in Paris. I’ve been able to walk about in Paris a few times and it brought back the magic of that city. Thanks. Linda
–Dear Terry, As always your SM hit home for me. Just finished a week in quarantine tested positive last Sunday. Live with a large group of Nuns and 10 of us were affected. Very confining not to be able to leave your rooms for chapel. Meals etc. but we survived. It certainly changed my plans for the week and tested my resolve. Sometimes we take people and simple pleasures for granted. Thanks for the reminders. Sr Mary
–Dear Terry, I treasure Sabbath Moment. Your word and thoughts and prayers help deeply. Thank you. Blessings Elizabeth
POEMS AND PRAYERS
I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man
Floating down canal
It doesn’t use numbers or moving hands
It always just says now
Jimmy Buffett – Breathe In, Breathe Out
“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.
“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“Why ruin it?” he said.
“But you could be doing something important,” I said.
“I am,” said Pooh.
“Oh? Doing what?”
“Listening,” he said.
“Listening to what?”
“To the birds. And that squirrel over there.”
“What are they saying?” I asked.
“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“But you know that already,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else thinks so, too,” he replied…
The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff
I lounge on the grass, that’s all. So
simple. Then I lie back until I am
inside the cloud that is just above me
but very high, and shaped like a fish.
Or, perhaps not. Then I enter the place
of not-thinking, not-remembering, not-
wanting. When the blue jay cries out his
riddle, in his carping voice, I return.
But I go back, the threshold is always
near. Over and back, over and back. Then
I rise. Maybe I rub my face as though I
have been asleep. But I have not been
asleep. I have been, as I say, inside
the cloud, or, perhaps, the lily floating
on the water. Then I go back to town,
to my own house, my own life, which has
now become brighter and simpler, some-
where I have never been before.
Of course I have always known you
are present in the clouds,
and the black oak I especially adore,
and the wings of birds…
Mary Oliver, from Six Recognitions of the Lord