“Treat the world as if it really existed,” William Stafford writes, and lately I’ve been thinking about how each day offers moments that can truly wake us up to the ordinary and magical happening all the time, and the trick is simply to pay attention. A little Chinese poem captures it best:
Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
— Wu Men (Huk-K’ai), 1183-1260 (translated by Stephen Mitchell)
Of course the trick is looking past, through or around the unnecessary things, which can trick us out of seeing what’s here, alive and vital, completely new and on the verge of changing, all the time. In this spirit, I decided to write a little something each day about one moment that lit up the world for me as if it, and not just my thoughts and thinking, really exists (which it does!). In a sense, the very act of writing has the potential to help me and you also to pause the constant play of radio dramas and old refrains of the mind to instead and in addition see, hear, smell, taste and touch the everyday magic available to us in each moment.
I choose today to begin simply because it seems as good a time as any, and maybe better, given that it’s nearly 100 degrees, and what sparkles out my bedroom window is the reflection of the sun bearing down on life as we know it through the humidity of late afternoon.
It’s also Bastille Day, which makes me remember a moment 21 years of pure magic. It was late morning, hotter than hell, and Ken and I had loaded the carseat into a pick-up truck we were borrowing. Daniel was one week old, and although he was born at a local birthing center in Topeka, he ended up at a major medical center for seven worried days and sleepless nights. Now he was finally okay, and we were cleared to take our baby home. We tucked that tiny baby into the infant seat, strapped him in, got in on both sides of him, and just as we were pulling out of the parking lot, turned on the radio to hear “La Marsaillaise” blasting its triumph. So we put the music and air-conditioning up, and told our son, “You’re free, you’re free!”
Now, 21 years later, I hum “La Marsaillaise,” watch the dog and cats stretched out on the floor to cool themselves down, and remind myself that I’m free too. Key to that freedom is taking the time to breathe in the present, to remind myself of how liberating and necessary it is to pause even and especially when it feels like I’m living in a giant sauna. Besides, there will be a cool breeze sometime again, and sometime later tonight, my son will come back home after celebrating another kind of freedom he’s recently been granted by turning 21.