Very early this morning, I was serenaded by a great horned owl.
I close my eyes, smile real big, and let the cares of the world (those that clamor and gnaw), gratefully recede.
It sounds as if he (she) is right outside the window, in the fir trees off the garden. And in my mind, I’m back to my college days, at the Abbey on the Isle of Iona, off Scotland’s northern shore.
In my mind compline has just begin. The owl leads the chant, reminding me of the gift of enough. And the gift of wonder.
When compline ends, I reread lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day”.
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
“It’s a gift to yourself but it’s a gift to anybody who has a hunger for it,” Mary Oliver told Krista (Tippett) in a 2015. The thought echoes something philosopher Simone Weil once said — that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” At a moment when the world can feel strange and difficult — or, at the very least, monotonous — Oliver’s poem draws our attention back to how our earthly existence may be just enough to get us through. She found inspiration in the works of the Roman poet Lucretius, whose Epicurean philosophy she sums up as: “What we are made of will make something else.”
“There is no nothingness — with these little atoms that run around too little for us to see. But, put together, they make something,” she said. “And that to me is a miracle. Where it came from, I don’t know. But it’s a miracle, and I think it’s enough to keep a person afloat.” If we understand existence as a miracle, then maybe the generosity that Simone Weil speaks of is not what we extend to others, but instead what the world offers us — if only we’re lucky enough to look up and around in awe. (Thank you OnBeing Project)
Here’s the deal: Wonder is our birthright. But we forget that don’t we? “(Wonder) comes easily in childhood—the feeling of watching dust motes dancing in sunlight, or climbing a tree to touch the sky, or falling asleep thinking about where the universe ends. If we are safe and nurtured enough to develop our capacity to wonder, we start to wonder about the people in our lives, too—their thoughts and experiences, their pain and joy, their wants and needs. We begin to sense that they are to themselves as vast and complex as we are to ourselves, their inner world as infinite as our own. In other words, we are seeing them as our equal. We are gaining information about how to love them. Wonder is the wellspring for love… But you don’t have to be religious in order to open to wonder. You only have to reclaim a sliver of what you once knew as a child. If you remember how to wonder, then you already have what you need to learn how to love.” (Thank you Center for Action and Contemplation)
This is the power of wonder. It is not just a reverie for my bliss. It is a grounding, a mindfulness; the permission to pay attention to this life, and to the people who are in it, now available to greater depths of compassion and love. In other words, we see the people who make us better, and we see the people who have been wounded, depleted and diminished, who need compassion.
Growing up, religion was about belonging to a church (the right church, of course) and professing certain beliefs (the right beliefs, of course). We missed the point that the foundation of religion is a sense of wonder and awe.
I love this. When Zach was young, we visited Joshua Tree National Park, and children are given a guide with suggestions for enjoying the park. One of them says, “Find an oasis. In silence, spend ten minutes there. Ask yourself these questions: What did I hear? What did I see? What did I notice that surprised me?” Those are still good questions for every day.
And the owl reminded me that wonder links us to what matters.
“I do not ask to see the reason for it all;
I ask only to share the wonder of it all.”
Rabbi Abraham Heschel
Speaking of Zach; when he was young, we watched the documentary, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, about a man with no money at all, but who lived a rich, passionate and full life of wonder as a bohemian St. Francis to a flock of wild birds. It was charming, endearing and motivational. And made me ask, “How does he get away with that?”
There is something tempting about our need to make wonder a strategy or assignment or test to pass. However, if plans are still on your mind, let me pour you a cup of coffee, and let’s watch the moon still linger in the western sky, and find solace in the owl’s canticle. Plans can wait; although Czeslaw has a good one… Today I am going to pay attention.
“At the entrance, my bare feet on the dirt floor,
Here, gusts of heat; at my back, white clouds.
I stare and stare. It seems I was called for this:
To glorify things just because they are.”
(“Blacksmith Shop,” Provinces, Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass)
I’m grateful for those who have joined us for Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. I know our inboxes are sufficiently chockablock. But if you’d appreciate a daily reminder, to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness, a space where we are refueled to make a difference… join us.
I needed the owl this week because there’s a good bit of my mental plate. I’ll unpack it in Sabbath Moment in the weeks ahead.
Quote for your week…
Don’t we all want to make sense? Jewish wisdom sanctions the yearning, even ennobles it, at the same time teaching there is no meaning: only a kind of dance between meaning and ambiguity; understanding and misunderstanding; faith and doubt; essence and no-essence. And the more joyous the dance, the richer and more holy the life. Irwin Kula
Please join me for the NEW Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Tuesday through Friday. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.
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Today’s photo credit — Chaminwood Lake, Channahon, Illinois… Joe Durepos… thank you Joe… Keep sending your photos… send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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In the mailbag… because your letters affirm us all…
–A very good friend of mine sends me your Sabbath Moments every morning. It is a way we stay connected. I see that you are an avid reader so I would like to suggest a wonderful book.
A commonsense book that everyone needs to read. If you ever find the time; The Hidden Power of Kindness by Lawrence Lovasik, ‘A practical handbook for Souls who dare to transform the world, one deed at a time.’ Enjoy. Elaine
–Thank you so very much for including that request for prayer today from the lady about the fires. Living in Nevada we’ve been complaining about the smoke sometimes I think we forget the people on the other end of this, the ones that are really suffering. It’s not easy on us because the smoke, but our homes are not in danger and really our lives aren’t either except for very few people; thank you for those wonderful words take care God bless. Peggy
–Terry, Thank you for your Sabbath Moments. I am so grateful for all that you share with us. Your stories and humor give me hope often when I feel lost. Keep up sharing your kindness and love for us all. Will miss you at the LA Conference this year. From your descriptions, your island home is a beautiful place to quarantine. May God keep you and your family healthy and safe. God Bless, Toni
–At 75 and after almost 50 years of marriage – I’m discovering again or maybe for the first time moments of sanctuary with my husband on morning walks. Your writings have become my morning moment of pause. I’m grateful. Take care. MaLes
–Thank you, Terry, for this wonderful post! Yes! “This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.” The Kindness poem is one of my all time favorites – “goes with you… like a shadow or a friend.” So, thank you. I have often thought what kind of world we could create if we concentrated on kindness and sharing. How different our world would be… like the John Lennon song, Imagine. Imagine a world without greed for one, and there are many other imagines that could really help us help each other. We know the importance of helpers. Blessings to you for being one. Sky Ann
POEMS AND PRAYERS
One had to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence
of living and dying. Morris West
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
David Wagoner, 1976
Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems
God bless our contradictions,
those parts of us that seem out of character.
Let us boldly and gladly live out of character.
Let us be creatures of paradox and variety–
creatures of contrast;
of light and shade; creatures of faith.
God be our constant.
Let us step out of character into the unknown,
to struggle and love and do what we will.