Long before I moved into this home, someone put stickers on the windows and doors. Not the removable kind meant for windows, but the kind that you might put on binders or wire-bound notebooks. They were promotional materials for international travel programs, complete with phone numbers and website addresses. They were placed in the middle of the glass doors and side window panes, blocking an otherwise beautiful view of the Green Mountains. Once the furniture was in place and the majority of the boxes unpacked, my husband and I devoted several hours to removing them.
On the next sunny afternoon, I heard thumping on the back door and an occasional tap on the side window. It was birds. They were flying under the porch ceiling and bumping into the glass doors, doing their best to take what looked like a clear flight path through the house to the front yard. The purpose of the stickers suddenly became clear.
I replaced the stickers with origami – something applied with a piece of scotch tape and easily removed. I can change them in a few seconds whenever the mood strikes, and future residents of this home can do the same. A little obstruction in the view is a small price to pay for the beauty and safety of birds in flight.
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: The particular means of caring for non-human neighbors.
Loving what does: Keeping the birds safe, and remembering that this world was made for them as much as it was for me.
You can’t see it, but the wind is whipping around, carrying snowflakes sideways before they fall to the ground. I can see them fly, accompanied by the sound of my back porch chimes. But the snapshot, accurate depiction that it is, reveals none of these things. It’s beyond the scope of my camera’s ability. A single instance in time simply can’t offer the depth of the living reality that surrounds it.
I’m not surprised that a still shot can’t give me an immersive and expansive experience of today’s snowfall. Yet, I am sometimes tempted to reduce a person to a particular act or phase – surprised that the still shot of their lives that I’ve taken with my internal camera is just as limited as the one that took the picture above.
All those snowflakes, invisible in the photo, accumulate over time. Patterned by the wind and landscape, they cover the ground and transform the wintry world. All this from tiny flakes amassed over time.
If such is true of snowflakes, could it be less true of any of us? Our moments and years, invisible to my snapshot judgement, accumulate over time. Patterned by our internal and external landscapes, they form and transform us and the world in which we live.
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: The snapshot judgements I make.
Loving what does: The unique beauty of a life of accumulated experiences.
I’ve known two people who could see auras, sometimes around people they knew and sometimes around strangers walking down the street. Neither saw them all the time, and neither talked about it much – it made too many people nervous. The same goes for a couple of people I know who have the gift of healing through touch. All four were quite sure that these spiritual gifts weren’t a sign of superior spirituality, and all were emphatic that they weren’t something that was earned or deserved. These four have offered God’s love in uncommon ways, and have made the world a better place for the sharing of their gifts.
Most of us haven’t seen any members of the heavenly host winging through the air, bearing greetings and do-not-be-afraids to those who are asked to go on a mission from God. But we have seen messengers who bring a word of assurance and loving touch when we are afraid, and a steady if small light when we are in dark places. Such angels may not be sporting wings or haloes, but they bring with them a glimpse of God’s presence – and they leave behind the impression that something holy has visited us.
A careless placement and a swift movement sent my wedding rings into the space between the cupboard’s edge and the side of the stove. It’s too narrow for reaching in, too dark to see into, and the stove too heavy for me to move without help. Since I was alone at the time, I couldn’t get them back and go on my merry way. So they remain out of reach until my husband or one of my sons can work with me.
It’s now my visual for a life-altering truth: relationships like a marriage cannot be created, fostered, or repaired by an individual. Let’s hope I’m wise enough to ask for help when needed, and offer it when asked…
He arrived on Saturday, the latest addition to the family. My younger son got him at the Dartmouth animal shelter. He’s fun, friendly, and Jared will name him in the next couple of days.
Until he gets used to his new home, Jared is keeping doors to the bedrooms closed, and has moved the litter box up from the basement. Too much unfamiliar space can be overwhelming for a kitten, so smaller means safer at this point.
This won’t always be true, but for now limiting space is an act of love. Physically smaller can be emotionally and existentially beautiful – much like the kitten himself…
High winds and subzero temps kept us inside for most of the weekend, so it was with delight that we stepped into a beautiful winter night this Sunday. Planets and stars walked with us, with just an occasional cloud passing in between. Other than a few house lights in the distance, and the odd string of lights on one of the neighbors’ houses, our path was illuminated by what the night sky offered. The moon was still half hidden by the Green mountains as we began our walk, rising steadily until it was well above them when we turned into our driveway to head inside. A few paces down the driveway and the house lights took over, outshining the softer gleams of heavenly bodies.
I often think about the lights we create, the lesser ones that only shine on our little section of this universe. From my limited view, they are brighter than the much grander celestial lights. I am grateful for the light they shed, and for welcoming family, friends, neighbors, and strangers as they walk to our door. I am also grateful for the truth they reveal:
In the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to forget that what is near and familiar often appears larger than it is. And what is truly grand can be mistaken for a lesser light because it is beyond my own back yard.
Last night, the temperature dove from one to seventeen degrees below zero. The wind howled and turned tree branches into a percussion ensemble. This morning’s sun revealed in the snow a still life of what is never still: the breaking of an incoming wave. A wind-sketched ocean has taken up temporary residence in this Vermont valley. How vast is nature’s power to create through severe weather the same pattern in two places that will never meet.
I wonder if it is just such power that drives us to create such patterns. How vast is the power of the Spirit moving through our lives that we sketch its pattern in words and images. What is scripture, liturgy, architecture, and music if not our best attempts of giving future generations a glimpse of the pattern God has impressed on our holy lives?