It is Sunday morning and I am sitting in my lanai. I relished a short lie-in this morning after our trip home yesterday afternoon, unpacking and sorting out clothes and getting them washed and put away. It is good to be home in familiar surroundings. We had a great week in Orlando and it was good to be away from the usual routines. But it’s always lovely to come home.
It is a gorgeous day. Another one of those sparkling “Princess Di” days. The sun is shining brilliantly from a clear blue sky and there is a slight breeze sighing through the pine trees out back. Everything is gently moving and I can see all the individual needles on the pine trees fluttering in the breeze and shimmering in the sunlight.
I sit back in my chair and breathe in the soft, warm air. Yes, it’s warm here in sunny Florida at the end of November, although I hear that temperatures are going to dip down later on this week. In the meantime, I am enjoying this “Indian summer” and feel very happy and content. In fact my heart is full joy right now as I look at the beauty that God has placed right here in my back yard.
I notice that the small brown birds, I believe they are sparrows, are back again as they pass through on their way to who-knows-where and they are clustering on the feeders. There’s a flash of red as a colorful cardinal claims his place and the sparrows flutter away until he is done. I can hear the squirrels barking in the trees as they playfully, or maybe not, fuss at each other. Mokka, our cat, sits in the sun, her tail slowly swishing as she thinks her cat-thoughts about the birds.
But even as I am aware of the joy that I feel I am also aware that there is sadness punching and poking at my heart. It feels as though one ventricle is full of joy and the other is full of sadness. My life is blessed in so many ways and I am truly grateful for that. Yet I have a longing for a healed relationship with my sister who I miss so very much, and another longing for a happy, satisfying relationship with my daughter who I also miss very much.
And I am reminded of one of my favorite authors, Kahlil Gibran, who, when asked in his book The Prophet to speak about Joy and Sorrow, responds with these wise and wonderful words of wisdom:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.”…………..
“Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”……………
“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”………..
”Together they come [Joy and Sorrow], and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”
And so hangs the balance of all life. One moment we are in joy, and the next we are in sorrow. And sometimes we carry them together. And I can only learn to surrender to what is, to accept the gift of my emotions no matter what they are. As a character in the movie Shirley Valentine said, “If I can feel it means I am alive.”
This past weekend I was involved in putting on a workshop about prayer and meditation. I’ll talk about the workshop itself in a separate posting. As well as the presentations on the topic we also provided food. We work on the premise that “if there’s food, they will come”. I knew there were plenty of veggies, chips, dips and desserts being prepared as well as a couple of platters of wraps. But only one meat dish was on the sign up list, so I decided to grab a few rotisserie chickens, pull the meat off and serve it up in small portions.
This left me with four chicken carcasses. I love homemade chicken soup, so before leaving for the workshop I dumped the bones into a large pot, filled it with water, and put it on to boil. When I came home I fired it up again, let it simmer for a bit, then turned it off to cool over night. Now I’m not sure about you all out there, but when I make chicken soup I don’t want just the broth. I want every single tiny morsel of meat that was left on the bones in my soup.
So, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than to scrub my hands clean then plunge them into a pot-full of cold chicken broth? I mean it’s the ultimate Sunday afternoon activity, right!! My husband thinks it’s a little crazy but he sure enjoys the soups that come out of this. However, this Sunday was a little different because as I manually sifted through the chicken bones I had a real spiritual experience. She’s flipped, you’re thinking. Totally lost it, you’re saying.
Don’t be too quick to judge and let me explain what happened. Now I’ve been through this chicken soup process many times before and never thought about God. Perhaps it was a result of the workshop the previous day that had me floating on a higher plane, on a deeper spiritual level; who knows. But as I picked up the different skeletal parts of the chicken to strip them of their tasty morsels, I became very aware of how amazingly a chicken is put together. Hundreds (at least it seemed like that many) of tiny bones all put together and connected in a specific design to create the animal that we know as a chicken.
Then I began to think about how many different animals, birds, insects, reptiles, and sea creatures inhabit our planet earth. Having watched many different animal documentaries and always being so totally surprised by the number of different animals there are, I surmise there must be millions of different species all over the globe. As I thought about that, I began to let my mind wander in this zoo that I had conjured up in my mind and saw all the different shapes and sizes of the various creatures therein, and I imagined all the different skeletal designs that each one had.
It occurred to me in that moment how marvelous and how rich was the diversity of life on this planet. It also became very clear to me in that moment that even if I didn’t have a religious experience in my life, no way could I believe that all this richness, all this diversity, just created itself out of nothing or came from some “big bang”. Some incredibly awesome, powerfully intellectual-beyond-belief Creator had to have masterminded all these different creatures.
My mind was totally boggled for quite a while as I continued to sift and separate bones from meat, from fat, from grizzle, from tendons. It’s in moments like this that I get quite “right sized”. I realize in the same moment how insignificant I am in the bigger scheme of things and yet how important I am. I must be important if this Creator, in the middle of creating this planet with all its life forms as well as the universe with its billions of stars and planets and who knows what else, had the time to think me, to love me into existence with my own unique skeletal design.
In the same instant it is both a wildly happy thought and a wildly terrifying thought because it is really quite unfathomable to the human mind. So I think, and this is just my take on this, that all those grand intellectuals who claim the non-existence of a God, a Supreme Creator, are probably too terrified by the thought of such an all-powerful being to admit He/She/It may be there. I would not like to be on their deathbeds.
Finally I get to sit outside in my lanai with my laptop and my Muse. The temperature out here today at almost 1.30pm registers seventy seven degrees Fahrenheit. It was already seventy one degrees at about 11am this morning:-). I was able to enjoy sitting out here in the warmth, with the birds singing and eating greedily from the feeders in the yard, the breeze sighing gently through the pine trees, and truly appreciate my quiet time.
That done, I prepared my breakfast and brought it out here. Because it is Sunday my husband is home with me, and he too made some breakfast and came out to join me in the lanai. It is such a simple thing, a husband and a wife sitting and quietly enjoying breakfast together in the open air, but it brings me much joy.
I am happy!! There is nothing I enjoy more than to be out in God’s creation, breathing in the fresh air and watching His creatures in their natural habitat. My head seems much clearer. Not sure what it is with artificially controlled air, whether it be winter heating or summer air conditioning, but I do not feel right in my head when I am forced to breath in that kind of air on a regular basis.
The sun has been shining on and off all morning. But even now, with gray clouds obscuring the sun, the underlying feeling is one of natural warmth and life. I can even smell the warmth in the air. Real oxygen energizes me in a way that nothing else does and the warmth makes my body feel alive, open, and at the same time, comforted. I could just sit outside and experience this all day, every day, and feel totally content. I guess I am a very simple person at heart.
Yesterday I added a new bird feeder to the garden. This morning it was swarming with birds. A short while ago my husband put up another hook and we added yet one more feeder. The little guys have yet to discover it, but I’m sure it won’t take them long. And as I watch them, a black butterfly with bright markings flutters outside the lanai screening as though trying to enter: good morning Mamma:-)
And in the meantime, Mokka cat is also enjoying the gift of this wonderful day. She is lounging luxuriously on top of the storage chest here in the lanai, basking in the sun’s warmth. Her tail is swishing slowly from side to side as she watches the bird activity outside the lanai. From time to time her nose or an ear twitches, and I am wondering what is going on in her cat brain.
There is nothing exotic or grandiose about all this, and that is the true beauty contained therein. I do not need riches or an extravagant lifestyle nor do I need to be surrounded by material wealth in order to feel rich. I just need a day like today and the undeniable gift of being able to enjoy it.