It is 5:48 a.m. Good morning.
I am fortunate enough to teach a 300-level writing course at our local university. The students who take this course are always dynamic, thoughtful, and seemingly ready for something to happen. This semester is no different. I teach on Wednesday evenings, so our class this week fell on Day 1 of my journey. One of the books I am using for this course is Writing Toward Home, by Georgia Heard, and it includes about 50 short chapters about writing, the writer, and life itself.
Last Wednesday, one of my students started a discussion about the chapter she read, which was about falling in love three times every day. Heard’s point was simply this: slow down and take the time to observe the beauty in the little things around you. Don’t let the rush of the day make you blind to the all that surrounds you, and don’t take anything for granted.
Seed planted, duly noted.
Yesterday, Day 2, provided me with two things: great challenges for patience, and great opportunities to realize connections and simple beauty.
When your focus is shifted away from the things that have distracted you for a long time (in my case, it’s food and Facebook), there is a sudden clarity that comes with this new focus. Where there was once darkness, is now light. I was presented with several opportunities to lash out, get angry, fight back. I chose none of them. Instead, I chose to accept them with patience, a stilling of the waters, and with it came a previously unrealized beauty of the things around me, as well as noticing some rather serendipitous events that I cannot question are somehow related.
First, the challenges. Delay might be a good word to summarize the day. What’s different about yesterday and, say, the same events happening a week ago, is how I interpreted them. There were little delays along the way, including a 2-hour delay in school opening. I thought I was going to take advantage of the extra time in the morning to get some work done, but a good friend stopped by my room, and we shared wonderful conversation.
After school, I had planned on leaving a little after 3, but another friend stopped by (we had planned to meet), and what I thought was going to be a quick hello turned into 70 minutes of some of the best words shared about our foundations for helping teens and young adults struggling with depression. Leaving late put me on the road close to 4:30, a gamble at best with rush-hour traffic. I spent 2 1/2 hours on the Beltway crawling home. Another opportunity for patience and clarity.
When I finally arrived home close to 7 p.m., the evening flew by, and before I knew it, I was picking up a vegan meal and printing out Holland’s science-fair papers close to 11 p.m.
The evening had finally calmed. I took off my shoes, settled in for the night, and started watching Olympic skating when my phone rang. It was the restaurant, and they wanted to inform me that I had left my credit card there and needed to pick it up.
Shoes back on, tofu on the counter, and back outside to retrieve my credit card.
Frustration? Challenge? Or opportunity for clarity?
In every case where I was delayed yesterday, I seized the opportunity to fall in love with something new. In the morning, I listened more intently to my friend’s words as we discussed Greek mythology. In the afternoon I cherished the conversation with a mother whose daughter committed suicide just last year. On my ride home I pondered the plight and stress of my fellow travelers, all tense and frustrated as they moved from lane to lane, jockeying for, what–a 30-second advantage? And finally, in the evening, as I walked back to my Jeep in the garage, I treasured the small city from a different point of view, unprotected by a ton of metal and airbags at the ready. I was in the pulse of my town, and I loved it.
The clarity brings about something else, too. Connections. For some reason, when we take the time to notice a little more acutely the world around us, we begin to recognize the magical and miraculous interweaving of lives and events, however subtle they may be.
In my way into school yesterday, I was taken with the notion of carving little wooden crosses during these 40 days, to direct my focus to a craft that I might be able to share with others and that might provide greater stillness in my life. Within hours of making the decision to get some wood and begin carving them this weekend, a student-writer came up to me and shared a gift that a friend had given him this morning. It was a 3-dimensional carving of a tree against a backdrop of colors and inspiration, a selection of words celebrating their friendship. It was as if I were given a nod of support, of approval, to carve the crosses. Such serendipitous moments occur all the time, I believe. We just don’t slow down long enough to realize them.
I will continue to still the waters today, to see with greater clarity, especially when challenges and delays are placed in my life (all for a reason, I am sure). I pray that you have the opportunity to fall in love with something new today. Let your waters still, and cherish the revelations of the beauty that has surrounded you your entire life. They are simple, they are subtle, and yet they are great and they are wonderful.
Blessings and love,