Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pay Attention!

One of the keys to a happy life is to pay attention to people and circumstances. Tripping obliviously along does not bode well for the spiritual life either.

But I don't always pay attention. Sometimes it is because I am tired. Other times I don't pay attention because what needs attending to is beyond my ken and unavailable to me.

For instance, Saturday I was returning from a short run and, relishing the golden sun on Mt. Sinai harbor, I decided it would be the perfect evening to inaugurate the canoe for this season. Br. Max was willing, so we wrestled the craft upside down onto our shoulders, hiding our heads, and bumbled like an enormous sow bug down the hill from Little Portion to the little bit of marsh which is our "beach." Cars slowed way down when they saw the four-legged green thing alongside the road.

We opted for the shortcut to the harbor, and blundered through sticker bushes, over fallen logs and through sharp bladed grass. Finally we reached the harbor.

"Uh-oh," said Max.

"What's wrong?" I asked peering from beneath the canoe.

"Tide's out."

"The tide?!" I stammered. "I never thought of that."

Being naturally impatient I tried to slog through the mud and grass to reach the water. Max held back, laughing. I sank up to my knees in viscous, odoriferous muck, only saving my shoes by clenching my toes tightly. I admitted defeat.

"But I am not carrying this thing back up the hill until we get out on the water," I vowed.

So we stashed the canoe in a bramble thicket, deciding that nobody would be inclined to grapple with it and the menacing vegetation. And if they were, they would be welcome to the boat.

Sunday Br. Derek announced: "High tide at 12:45." We were learning to pay attention to new things.

Unsurprisingly, the canoe was still there. We slid it easily into the water and glided out across the grasses to the open water--several feet above the muddy sea floor. There is a line in Kenneth Grahame's "Wind in the Willows" at the very beginning, when Water Rat says to Mole as they set out in a boat: "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing," he went on dreamily: "messing--about--in--boats; messing--" So begin their adventures and misadventures together. Reading them today I am reminded of the friars sometimes. But that line of Water Rat's has stayed with me from childhood. It expresses the epitome of pleasurable leisure.

So we paddled lazily, sometimes bumping into things, watching egrets, herons, ducks, geese and swans. Max saw a school of fish. We marveled at a jelly fish. We speculated on the happiness of the people who lived in the huge water-side mansions compared with ourselves in our canoe. Surprisingly (but why should it have been?), we knew some folks on one of the lobster boats and shouted greetings.

"Look at that!"

"Look at that over there!" we told each other. There was much to see and pay attention to.

Sometimes being told to "pay attention" can be threatening or chastening. But as we prepare for Pentecost this Sunday, it can be an invitation too. Consider yourself invited to take note of the breath-taking beauty around you, unimagined riches right in our back yards.

Alleluia. The Spirit of God fills the whole earth; holy widsom, herself unchanging, in Christ makes all things new. Alleluia.

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