As I walked down our snow-covered road a few days ago, hypnotized by the puffs of snow that still clung to the trees because it was bitter cold, I realized something had changed within … or perhaps nothing had changed. Maybe I was beginning to sense what had always been there yet needed the luxury of time to grow into awareness.
The extraordinary winter beauty that surrounded me required no destination, no time frame, no obligation. It was the journey of the walk with Georgie. We encountered only our reverence for the moment. I believe his dogness reverence was resonating with mine.
It was the day after Christmas and neighbors had gone off to families, fighting the Bay Area traffic or traveling on over-crowded airplanes. I don’t travel during holidays. I have traveled enough in my life and career to know that the push and shove of holiday travel would turn me into Scrooge. I had the two-mile road and all of nature to myself.
Plotinus – the semi-famous Greek – wrote that “we encounter and engage beauty through the “feel” of the soul.” That’s what I sensed. I was sensing my life’s journey by some of the beautiful things, not linear events. Paris, this past summer, was the beginning of that awareness of how immersion in beauty changes one’s brain chemistry. Unfamiliarity of place and no routine obligations set me on a path of discovery each day. Once I had managed the basics of direction and the metro, my eyes roamed the city scape of statues, sculptures, museums and two hundred to three-hundred or more-year-old buildings astonishing my mind.
We have become accustomed to measuring beauty by superficial means. Selfies now define where a person has been with little regard to seeing what is before them. Everywhere I go – be it Paris or the beach – people stand in front of the attraction, the art, the sunset rather than gaze into the perfection of something created centuries before or being created by nature at a specific moment. There is no reverence for what is before them.
As I get older and know that my time is finite, know that I survived many difficulties and challenges without lasting bitterness, know that what is before us politically will detrimentally shape our world, I open my eyes wider, with deeper reverence for all the beauty that surrounds me. There is too much lack of reverence for people and nature by Trump and other global leaders that it will be difficult for conscious, caring people to stay engaged.
Entering 2017 with the intention of honoring the sacred beauty of where I live, finding sacred beauty wherever I travel, I remembered an Irish story about Teannalach that John O’Donohue had written of. He had a friend who owned an Art Gallery that was having an exhibition and a renowned poet came in to view it. At the same time a farmer entered who was a friend of the gallery owner’s. The owner introduced the two as he thought they would get on well. The poet and the farmer strolled through the exhibit together as the poet pointed out intricacies and symbolism in the art. The farmer was very appreciative and thanked the poet and praised him for his gifts of awareness and eye for beauty. He told the poet he didn’t have that eye but he did have Teannalach. The poet inquired as to what that was and the farmer told him it was a lake where he lived and where he could always hear the ripple of the water and the sound of the wind. On a very quiet summer day, however, he told the poet that he could hear the elements and the surface of the lake make beautiful music together. His gift was his ability for sacred attention that could hear the unheard music of the lake.
This coming year, I will be listening for the music and looking for the beauty because I need it more than ever. I will be telling people what I hear and what I see because they need it too.