This morning God had me reading The Dance of Life by Henry Nouwen. I always just open the book and let God tell me what I need to hear. It works like a charm. This morning’s salve was a journal entry where Father Nouwen reflects on his propensity for drama. He talks about a friend who always talks about the small things in life that are beautiful and joyful while he likes the “newspaper news.” He laments that he’s not more focused on the joys of life as a natural inclination.
Yesterday, I was thinking about how everywhere I’ve lived, there have been wonderful things that I love. People ask me all the time which city I loved the most. I can never really say. I can say that I loved Seattle because it was so over-the-top beautiful with its snow-capped volcanoes and watery backdrop. I loved Knoxville because of its proximity to the Smoky Mountains and my girlfriends I knew there. I loved Memphis because of its music, its healing community and the downtown area. I loved St. Joseph because of Lake Michigan and the quaint Victorian neighborhoods. There is so much beauty in this world. No one place has an advantage over another. I had a fiancee when I moved to Michigan from Seattle. He couldn’t adapt because he thought Seattle was the only beautiful place in the world. He was looking for beauty that was in his face every minute of the day. I remember telling him that if Seattle was the best place in the world, Chicago wouldn’t haven any people in it. They’d all be in Seattle. He laughed, but I could tell he just couldn’t pick out loveliness in less obvious things.
I had a really rough day at work yesterday. All of the BS got to me, and I wanted to flee. I literally did flee for a couple of hours, but I had this really strong desire to get the hell out of Baton Rouge and the higher education system with its much slower pace and financial problems. I longed for the world of corporate America where the pressure was on, and people who aren’t performing are weeded out pretty quickly. I wanted to be working in a place where there was plenty of money to get the things done that needed to be done. It was just too much to overcome for the moment. I took some time, and I got my head back into the game, but I’m still working really hard this morning to find the good. I know I’ll get there, but I had reached the point of completely giving into the fantasy of escape, and it felt like a huge relief. I could see Arkansas in my windshield and Louisiana in my rear view mirror as plain as day… and I was in sheer bliss. But, escape isn’t really that easy, is it?
So, this morning I have this message about finding the joy and changing my focus. Sunday as I was driving home from my sister’s house in Cottonport, I was enjoying the ride. Cottonport is in Northern Louisiana (sort of), and it is country almost all the way to Baton Rouge. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the trees were dressed out in that beautiful new leaf limey green. Country music was playing on the radio, and my dog was snoring next to me in the passenger seat. I noticed field after field of these lovely little yellow flowers. The entire field would be covered with them giving the blanket of green this lovely yellow glow. When I first got into recovery, and I was in so much emotional pain I could hardly bear the day. I started running in the trails in the Indiana Dunes State Park. In the springtime, the forest was covered with yellow wildflowers much like the ones I saw Sunday. I saw them then .. and now .. as symbols of the sunlight of the spirit. They remind me of God … and goodness … and the promise that our world has a much deeper meaning than is evident at first glance. Sunday, I watched field after field of these flowers pass by. I talked to a good friend who had been in a terrible car accident a few weeks ago. It was so bad that she had this really peaceful knowing that this was it…. this was how she was going to check out. But, she woke up – amazed to be alive. It made me realize how sad I would have been if she hadn’t made it and the fragility of our existence. I found myself pulling off the road for a minute to really take those flowers in.
Life is short. Even though my heart feels a bit heavy this morning with work issues, I’m going to try to find the joy in my work today. There has to be something that drew me here to this job that is more meaningful than the everyday BS. I might go pick up some yellow flowers to put on my desk. That might just be the ticket. I forget that escape can look like a complete escape, or it can just be a minor tweak in perception. I pulled up that pic of the yellow flowers that I took yesterday. Just seeing them gives me the connection to spirit that I need. Thanks, Father Nouwen for following up with your very obvious reminder to find the simple beauty in life. Loveliness is not only evident in snow-capped volcanoes and obvious over-the-top beauty, but it resides in simple little yellow wildflowers. Beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder.