About a month ago, we pulled into the driveway after a great five days up along the north shore of Minnesota, still reveling in the tonic that is Lake Superior, anticipating a low key few days of unpacking before returning to the usual work schedule. We ambled down the path from the garage, happy to be out of the car and walked into the house to a putrid smell and reports that the septic alarm had been going off for an indeterminate amount of time in our absence. Awesome. Turns out a little creature of some sort had chewed through the cord that powered the septic pump, shorting it out. Could have been much worse. All and all and easy fix for Nick, and we were back in business. But the smell….remained. For another day we pondered just what could be making the kitchen stink. Eventually we followed some clues and found a decomposing mouse behind the fridge. Again, awesome. But we got rid of it, gave the cats a pep talk and life carried on. Then I got a call that my credit card number had been stolen and there was someone in Texas trying to charge a trip to Thailand on my Visa. And the grass needed to be mowed and the garden weeded. Then the water heater broke, one of our indoor cats got out and was lost for a day and a half, and my retreat co-leader broke her foot and couldn’t come to the retreat we had been planning for several months. And then the road construction workers cut the phone lines that run to our house and we were down phone and internet for several days…and still are, truth be told. Not a big deal, really, except for when you work from home calling people and working on the internet. (And that’s just what happened in my own little privileged bubble – the events happening in tandem with my own mini dramas in terms of racial inequality and war and planetary destruction would make this little list much, much longer.)
It’s been a rough month.
So why the sob story? Yes, it’s been a rough month, and yes there are things about our world that make me ache with the injustice that gets played out every single day, but as I breathe into the situations that seem so dark and dismal, I keep finding little bits of goodness that make me gasp in astonishment. I’m not really one for “looking for the positives” in a situation these days (hello positive psychology burnout!), so that’s not what I mean. Sure, many of my personal scenarios could have been much more dire, and I could sift through each one to find the lesson or the positive aspect of the situation. Lots of people are worse off than I am, and my life is a cake walk compared to what millions of others experience on a daily basis. What I mean is that interspersed between things breaking and not going how I want them to go, there have been plenty of little bits of astonishment showing up alongside the messes.
The retreat that I was so worried about having the cancel or lead without my partner ended up being a weekend of inviting others to step into their gifts, of truth telling, of letting go and of embracing fluidity. I woke up on the last morning of the event and paddled through calm water under a gently waking sky and felt the muscles that had been stretched the day before in yoga class remind me of the strength of women, the importance of wildness and the power of story telling.
The pole beans that I planted in May started the climb their teepee a few weeks ago, and I went out this morning after lamenting the slowness of the internet and noticed that they are starting to blossom. Then I dug a three colors of potatoes, picked some kale and found a baseball bat sized zucchini and three perfectly ripe Sungold tomatoes which I ate directly off the vine, their sweetness exploding in in my mouth like a brilliant sunset.
After a sweltering jog around construction equipment this afternoon, Eva and I ran through the garden hose squealing as only a four year old can, and then we picked blueberries while we were dripping wet and covered with sticky grass with the meticulous care and wonder that young children so easily encourage.
And tonight as I type these words, the sliding door to the back deck is letting in a cool summer breeze, and I can hear birds and frogs singing their evening melodies as dusk falls on the lake and the alert stillness of darkness settles in for a nightcap. I remind myself that I am breathing and alive on an earth that is generous enough to grant me the ability witness these things.
The beauty of life takes my breath away sometimes, and I find myself wishing I could remember to be astonished more often. There will always be hardship and challenge and things that break. But there will also be ripe tomatoes, blueberry stained fingers, the feel of a child’s hand in my own and the call of a loon through the darkness. No matter how hard things get, there will always be little bits of astonishment to fill in the gaps.
Two more black men were killed by police in the last week, and America is seemingly more divided than ever before. Fights start over hashtags, stories get warped, and moms who exercise their right to protest a broken system get arrested. But in the midst of the chaos and [justified] rage and [never justified] violence, people of all colors still join hands and protestors from opposing sides sometimes cross highways and pray for peace despite their differences. Angry people stand up for their rights and somehow channel their rage in a way that allows them to choose peace over chaos, even when others choose violence. People speak truths and things get uncovered and we breathe through another day.
Astonishment. I see you, and I invite you to stay.