“Forever is composed of nows.” ~ Emily Dickinson
Ecstasy occasionally slips up on me. This is one of those moments. Shadows tinted by dawn leave the impression of frost spread across the room. Five minutes before it was black as pitch and five minutes later the magic will disappear. Competing winds outside whitewashed farm walls force stricken rust and sienna Red Oak leaves into spirals against their will, rising and falling with northern currents heralding impending change, but silence inside descends and expands until filling all available space. Aroma of wood ash from the fireplace somehow smacks of stale tobacco laced with vanilla, guaranteeing an olfactory memory. I may embrace the magic, or allow it to slip away never to return—the choice is mine. Life is sacred, but solitude is an impatient gift.
Courage to embrace the moment is rare. Most rush away mentally headlong in multiple directions, hellbent on thinking of anything and everything save here and now. We are all either running away from something or running toward someone; some of us are doing both at the selfsame time. Quiet and contemplation are an invitation to holiness, but otherworldly fortitude is required to stay the mental and spiritual course through conflict, chaos, boredom, and routine. Much of life is endured in the shadow of cliche’. Brother Lawrence lived out the secret while washing dishes in a monastery. Frank Laubach experimented with “practicing the presence” as a missionary in the Philippines. Henri Nouwen gleaned it from an anonymous Russian pilgrim: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Buechner captures the essential conflict: “The temptation is always to reduce life to size. A bowl of cherries. A rat race. Amino acids. Even to call it a mystery smacks of reductionism. It is the mystery… After lecturing learnedly on miracles, a great theologian was asked to give a specific example of one. ‘There is only one miracle,’ he answered. ‘It is life.’” Contentment demands discipline. Train yourself to embrace mystery and you will marvel at the glory in the ordinary. Open your heart and see for yourself that Heaven is not so distant after all.