by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM July 28, 2023
During the summer months when I’m at home, I go out to the patio before 8 AM to water and check on my container garden and tiny flower garden. The timing of my visit often coincides with my downstairs neighbors who are preparing to go out in a van for the day. One of those residents waits on the patio in his wheelchair. As soon as he sees me, he begins directing me without words: pour the watering can on this pot of mint, not that one; use the shears on this bit of lavender, not the one over there. We also have a daily ritual where I snip a sprig of mint, he sniffs it, and he then gestures for me to add it to his backpack.
This morning he surprised me by wanting one of the flowers from the black eyed Susan patch. I was about to clip one and offer it, but no, he wanted a specific flower. From a bed of over a hundred blooms. “This one?” I would ask, and he would shake his head “No.” Finally I landed on the one he wanted so I cut it and carried it up to him. He sniffed the offered flower tentatively, then held my hand that was holding the black eyed Susan, and simply gazed at it. He kept gazing, with great tenderness.
I’ve been wondering what he saw that I didn’t see. What made him single out that one particular blossom? What did he notice? What caught his attention? What summoned him to pause and take a long look?
Our lives are often so full and lived at such an accelerated pace that simply to pause might seem a luxury. Joan Chittister observes that when we can’t remember how long it has been since we simply sat and looked at something we love, it has been way too long. Even the hard-working fuzzy bumblebee, moving from flower to flower and setting in motion the complex process of honey-making, lingers. Bees are selective, hovering and discerning before landing on the blossom of their choice. Pausing and gazing are an essential part of their search.
Gazing helps us attend to the holy that surrounds us in nature, art, and other people. We pause in stillness. We contemplate. We look with soft eyes and without judgment. We open ourselves to wonder.
So we might ask: what have we been gazing at this summer (or any season)? Where have our eyes lingered? What has captured our attention and invited us to look long and lovingly? With whom, with what, have we chosen to “waste” our time? Gazing reveals who or what we value and cherish.
In our pausing and our gazing, may we look with compassion at our beautiful yet wounded world. And when we do, “Let’s Remake the World” as Gregory Orr suggests:
“Let’s remake the world with words.
Not frivolously, nor
to hide from what we fear,
but with a purpose.
as Wordsworth said, remove
‘the dust of custom’ so things
shine again, each object arrayed
in its robe of original light.
And then we’ll see the world
as if for the first time,
as once we gazed at the Beloved
who was gazing at us.”
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Place before you something that has meaning for you: a photo, a plant, a pet, a child, whatever it may be.
Simply gaze with deep and unwavering love at what you’ve chosen.
Offer thanks to the object of your gazing and to the Holy One who created it.
Featured Image: Chris Koellhoffer, “Summer Garden”
Since I began writing Mining the Now in 2016, it’s been my custom to take a break from writing my blog and other ministry responsibilities during the month of August. This frees me to spend time in my own retreat and renewal, as well as offering one retreat:
August 8 – 15:
Guided retreat at Villa Maria, Stone Harbor, NJ
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Immaculata)
I’ll be leading this retreat and ask you to remember all who will be part of it.
Blessings on your days during August. I’ll be back to writing for my blog, Mining the Now, in September. Hope to see you again then!
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