Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Art of Wonder

We spent this past weekend with family in NY state, celebrating a birthday for one of the little ones (13 nieces and nephews on the Byrons side, and 2 more in utero!) Saturday morning, Rebecca and I went out for coffee and settled into a corner seat for a little caffienation. A small girl was guiding her father through the shop, over to a waterfall that streamed down a small stone wall. "Look" she kept saying. "Look!" My wife whispered to me "when did we ever stop saying "Look!"? The question struck us both so deeply. So often, it seems, we rush through our days without a second thought for all the simple wonders around us. Thoreau once said “The millions are awake enough for physical labor... only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?” If we allow ourselves moments of childlike simplicity, if we allow ourselves the time to simply “look”, what wonders will we see? Pope John Paul II said “We must open our eyes to admire God who hides and at the same time reveals himself in things and introduces us into the realms of mystery... we must be pure and simple like children, capable of admiring, being astonished, of marveling, and being enchanted by the divine gestures of love and closeness we witness.” It’s this wonder that can penetrate through the surface of things, and all the world and the people around us become in a very real way, “sacraments.” Each and every thing, in a certain sense, is a visible sign of an invisible reality. What a life of mysticism we are called to! To see in every stroke of color and texture in our lives the movement of a Masterful Hand! Later that day took us to the family's lake house in upstate NY. We love watching the many little encounters and discoveries the children make, in a place so simple, natural and wide open to sky and water. On an adventurous trek across the lake, via tubes, noodles and plain old fashioned swimming, a bunch of us explored "the island" - a tiny pine and blueberry choked oasis in the middle of the lake. We joked about being in an episode of Lost, found ourselves some sweet walking sticks (essential), and crammed blueberries in our mouths as we darted through the labyrinth of sweet smelling pine and mountain laurel. Then Daniel, my wife’s eldest brother said, "Look!" High in an old pine tree, was the large shadowy shape of a bird. And I mean large. I'm a birder, and I love spending time seeking out new species and I rejoice just to catch the flash of an oriole or the crimson fire of a Scarlet Tanager. But this! This find was golden. It was an eagle! A juvenile bald eagle, 30 feet above our heads. We stood motionless in the bushes below and just stared up at him, each lost in our own thoughts for a time. What a moment of wonder. Across the lake, through the breaks in the trees, we could here the shrill cries of another eagle, and it’s ancient and unmistakable white head reflected in the water as it flew. Wow. What wonders will we see if we simply “look”? What treasures await us out in the wilderness around us, and within us. Isn’t this the call of the gospel, to “come and see”? To leap, to launch out into the deep, to let go like children trusting our Father will catch us and carry us? Let’s not allow the summer to slip past without a renewed commitment to this wonder. May the God of Wonders rekindle in us a eucharistic amazement, and the joy of a new evangelization! For as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.”
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