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I’d never heard of Pico Iyer or his views on the urgency of slowing down, and I’ve only traveled to Japan in my imagination while listening to Dave Brubeck’s Kyoto Song. But I like how Pico thinks.

“I can soon begin to tell the time by how the light is slanting off our walls at sunrise and when the darkness falls” describes what happens in the cabin next to the wetland in Minnesota. Like Pico in Kyoto, I become more essentially human in the midst of real time.

Thanks to David Kerrigan for featuring the On Being interview with Krista Tippett.

Yes, and I think we all know that sensation. We have more and more time-saving devices but less and less time, it seems to us. When I was a boy, the sense of luxury had to do with a lot of space, maybe having a big house or a huge car. Now I think luxury has to do with having a lot of time. The ultimate luxury now might be just a blank space in the calendar. And interestingly enough, that’s what we crave, I think, so many of us.

When I moved from New York City to rural Japan — after my year in Kyoto, I essentially moved to a two-room apartment, which is where I still live with my wife and, formerly, our two kids. We don’t have a car or a bicycle or a T.V. I can understand. It’s very simple, but it feels very luxurious. One…

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Things too hard for me

Momentary access to the world-wide-web leads away from many words toward reflection on an ancient text.

O Lord, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child on its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait for the Lord,

from this time forth and for evermore. 

[Psalm 33, Book of Common Prayer psalm for the morning]

sunrise-over-lake-superior

I wake before dawn to see the sun rise over the far horizon beyond Lake Superior, shining its rays across the waves, a beauty beyond compare. I do not occupy myself with “great things” that matter less and things too hard for me. I am not proud.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Encampment Forest, Two Harbors, MN, October 5, 2017.

Strangely Quieted by the Manatees

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods
There is a rapture on the lonely shore
There is society, where none intrudes
By the deep Sea, and Music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”
– Lord Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” [1812-1818]

Standing at the edge of the pool of Blue Spring, our hearts are strangely quieted. Calmed. Still. At peace as we watch the West Indian Manatees move through the virgin waters of Blue Spring.

So gracefully does the Manatee approach the spring head, the deep vertical cave through the limestone that gently empties 165 million gallons of water per day into the St. Johns River from the aquifer below, enough for every resident of greater Orlando to drink 50 gallons of water a day.

The Manatee knows nothing of Orlando. Nothing of Epcot or Disney World. Nothing of vacations, technology, shopping malls, or the nearby Holy Land Experience theme park. She lives where she is . . . in this undisturbed place where she spends her winters to survive the cold by the warm water of Blue Spring.

Her movements are effortless . . . fluid and gentle, like the water around her. Her huge flat tail, like a leaf wafting in a soft breeze, glides her through the aqua blue waters of the Blue Spring. Slowly, very slowly, she inches toward the edge of the black oblong opening in the water, the deep black hole in the Earth. Her tail stops moving. She stops. She stays very still. She lowers her head, like the Virgin Mary pondering the mystery of an immaculate conception, as if bowing down to the source of her life.

West Indian Manatees

West Indian Manatees

Blue Spring is its own kind of Temple. A sacred place of the deepest silence where only those natural to this habitat belong. Today I was there, and the beauty of it deepened the sense of wonder of flesh and blood and water and algae and sabal palms and a natural quiet. My head bows in rapture on the lonely shore, mellowed and calmed, joining the Manatee, bowing over the place deep below the surface from which the pure water flows.

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
– William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence,” [1800-1810]

  • Gordon C. Stewart, March 31, 2016