Wonder and Welcome

“We need to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.” – G.K. Chesterton, “Orthodoxy.”

Watching the sun break the horizon, change the whole color of the sky and the landscape; watching fog dancing on still sleeping water on the cove–that conveys the sense of wonder we can find any given morning.

Smiling at the sunrise, laughing like it’s an inside joke, or on a morning with others running, skateboarding, or paddleboarding, realizing what a gift those moments are to share–that feeling, that recognition, that is welcome.

Maybe it is our job, with the time we have, to find both wonder and welcome. Maybe it’s our job, with the time we have, to be grateful for both wonder and welcome. Maybe it’s our job, with the time we have, to convey both wonder and welcome to others.

Part of that is finding what moves us. Part of it is staying after it, stoking our fire, our passion–what makes us who we are–and doing something with it, not settling, and not just being comfortable.

For me, that starts with waking up, wrestling the dog, smiling. Putting coffee on, grabbing a notebook and pen, a book. Praying. Reading. Reflecting. Maybe it’s a running or skateboarding morning. Maybe it’s watching hummingbirds light on the feeders next to the window.

Wonder and welcome are up to me to find. They are up to me to recognize. They are up to me to be grateful for. And they are up to me to pass along.

Stop, Look, Listen, Believe

“Perhaps it is time to look and listen without seeing and hearing.” This has been a common theme in Father Bill Ortt’s last two sermons. It’s a message I connect with; one that resonates. The idea is to look with fresh eyes and listen with new ears, to shut off what we expect to see or hear, and really take things in. Flaubert gets it:

I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony. – Gustave Flaubert, November

But this isn’t a specialization, it’s not exclusive. Looking and listening are things any of us can do. But it is so easy not to. We are in a hurry to get to work. To get our Christmas shopping done. To get to the next meeting. To check off our to do lists. And we know people, we know what they are going to say. We have heard stories or we know their soapboxes. What can we learn?

Flaubert’s quote above is about making the time. It’s about being quiet. Looking and listening without expectation. Being alive to what is really there in front of us.

In many ways, those are the only times we are open to God–when we turn off our small minds and wants and open ourselves up to what is real and what is now.

The other morning I walked the dog along the shoreline. I could feel the cold in my bones. I dropped into a catcher’s crouch to pray at the edge of the river and took a few deep breaths. I can still feel that moment, those breaths, and the creak of my knees.

When we got back home, I picked up Mary Oliver’s “American Primitive” and read “Morning at Great Pond” for the first time.

It starts like this:
forks of light
slicking up
out of the east,
flying over you,
and what’s left of night–
its black waterfalls,
its craven doubt–
dissolves like gravel
as the sun appears
trailing clouds
of pink and green wool,
igniting the fields
turning the ponds
to plates of fire.

I know those mornings. I’ve felt them when running; I’ve seen the sun paint away the night. Great Blue Herons, ducks, geese, songbirds in motion. Looking and listening in the morning, but it opens up to more:

and you’re healed then
from the night, your heart
wants more, you’re ready
to rise and look!
to hurry anywhere!
to believe in everything.

Mary Oliver is clearly a morning person. So am I. That’s when my energy runs deepest. But looking and listening isn’t limited to the sunrise hours. God’s paintbrush reaches the west as well. In the evening, it’s just as easy to look, listen, and believe.