“Oh my goodness! Can you imagine what life was like for all those eons of time that humans did not have running water? I mean, my own grandmother used a pump for her water when she was young. For all the generations that have ever lived on this earth, can you believe we get to live at a time when there is clean water that comes so easily to us in our houses? And toilets? That flush! And washing machines, and refrigerators, and heaters and all the ice we want any time of the year we want it!” These words repeat regularly in our home. They have for years. When we drive down Somerset hill in the evening, we remark aloud the awe and the splendor of the watercolor wash God paints across the sky every night at sunset. He paints a new landscape for us every minute of every evening. Sometimes, when we are late for an engagement, or focused on getting to the store, we miss that painting. And so, to solidify the habit for each other, we remark aloud, and offer thanks. When we give voice to our awareness, our awareness increases.
We call it THE EYE OF THE POET. In truth, it is simply awareness. Awareness, coupled with gratitude. Gratitude acts like my sister’s laminating machine for these beautiful, wonderful gifts we make ourselves aware of. She will lay a printed copy of a picture into a piece of plastic laminate, feed it into her warm machine, and out comes the picture, but the colors are more brilliant, the contrast more noticeable, and the art more permanent. Gratitude for the amazingness around us does the same thing.
I crawl into bed at night and giggle with the pleasure of a pillow top king size bed with stacks of down pillows. I am stunned that I, just another one of God’s many children, and unworthy of such gifts, get to crawl into this at night, next to the good man whose name I carry. Then I will roll over and watch him breathe and think about the goodness of this man, who sees me with an incredible set of blinders on. When my heart notices such things, through my poet’s eye, I have made it a habit to give thanks. Like I said, gratitude polishes everything.
Not long ago I spent ten days in the hospital with pancreatitis. The way they treat pancreatitis is with monitored fasting. I had an IV that kept me hydrated, but for over a week I did not eat at all. If you were to have told me before I lived through it that I would be ok with not eating, I would have told you I look forward to seeing y’all in heaven, cuz I could not live through it. But the reality of it was that I was fine, once the pain subsided. The trick was seeing the wonders that surrounded me. Little things, like the people who paused their lives to include me in their prayers. The beautiful writing of the author of the novel I read while I was in the hospital. I remember literally setting my book in my lap and silently offering thanks for the talents of the man who created the plot and the tasty strings of words that made up the book I was reading. I thanked the Lord for the wheels on the IV cart that made it possible for me to walk. And the window at the end of the hall that looked out over the valley. Amazing!The more I noticed the amazingness around me, the less I noticed my pain and discomfort.
The eye of the poet has great power to increase our joy, and it is remarkably easy to nurture. If you want to develop it, you need only to ask yourself what it would be like without just about any of life’s beauties or conveniences. When I think about how it would be without toothbrushes, then I am instantly grateful for them.
Here’s my HOPE for this day, and every day following: Stop…right now…stop and look around and speak three things that make your life more pleasant than it might have been 100 years ago. Or different than humans this very day in third world countries. Speak them aloud…at least in your mind. You can speak aloud in your mind my pronouncing the words to yourself. I pray often in silence. Offer a prayer if you are a praying sort, for those three things. This begins the nurturing of the EYE OF THE POET. The poet feels more deeply, lives life more passionately, and feels fulfillment because of this simple trick. If you are not, by nature, one to make note of these little gifts all around us, then take a pad of Post-It notes and leave reminders to yourself.
See. Take note. Give Thanks.
It goes like that.
During the season of Lent I make the personal commitment to write every day. I’ve done this for the past eight years, as a token of devotion and thanks to the Lord for giving me a brain that works (usually). I publish these writings here on my blog, unedited and splattered like wet paint, as a way to share them and to keep them for myself and for my posterity. This year I have decided to ruminate on thoughts, ideas, habits and miscellaneous personal practices I would like to put in a figurative HOPE CHEST to take with me into the rest of my life and the life beyond. Besides that, there are bits of advice I would like to tuck into the HOPE CHESTS of my kids and grandkids.