During a telephone conversation some years ago, friend of mine asked me, “Are you enjoying your new house?” She knew we had purchased a 25-year-old home in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California and our back yard consisted of a fabulous Redwood grove. The house had a two-story western-facing wall consisting of floor to ceiling windows, and the front of the house primarily was windows as well. Thus, we enjoyed the affect of living outside even when we were inside, and we had a spectacular view of the mountains to the west. However, the house needed a lot of interior and exterior work, and the property, although once someone’s pride and joy, could not claim to be in better shape.
“Well, we’ve been working outside, but we still have so much to do. And while we’ve been doing that, nothing has been accomplished inside the house,” I remember replying. “It’s a lot of work.”
“I lived on an old estate,” she replied, “and I know how you can get caught up in the upkeep. It can be overwhelming, but don’t forget to stop and enjoy your home and the beautiful setting in which you live.”
I heard what she was saying. “I do stop…sometimes,” I thought defensively, “to admire the sunset or to watch the hummingbirds…but not very often, not often enough.”
Moving Too Fast for Gratitude
I kept thinking about her words long after I hung up the phone. Today, I again remembering them – and the revelation I had afterwards. I realized that it wasn’t just the house and the beautiful surroundings I didn’t – and still don’t – stop to appreciate – often enough. It was – and still is – everything about my life that I didn’t stop to appreciate. In fact, I have many miracles in my life that I don’t stop to acknowledge acknowledge.
Life progresses forward at what feels like an every increasing pace, and out of necessity we place our focus on that forward motion. Just as when I drive on the narrow and curvy mountain roads that lead to my home my eyes never stray from what lies ahead of me – for if they do I might end up in a deep ravine or wrapped around a tree, I must keep my eyes on where I think I am going. Just as when I drive down the steep roads, I must stay ever wary that I do not let the car pick up too much speed and lose control, thus careening out of control at the next turn, I must be ever cautious of the same fate befalling me in general — always looking ahead and adjusting my quickening speed.
It is easy to be caught in our headlong rush toward our goals and desires – or simply towards getting everything done before the day ends. Yet, in the process, we forget the pleasure found in slowing down, opening the windows, smelling the sweet air and appreciating all we pass along the way.
Time for Appreciation
My home was a special place. I didn’t always see that as I rushed to strip wallpaper or clear away overgrown brush. I now live in a newer and nicer home with a beautiful view through the Redwood’s to the ocean (still in the mountains). I still fail more often than I’d like to see to see and to appreciate the beauty around me. I don’t always notice that view as I stare at my computer screen all day rarely glancing out the window to feel blessed by the sun glimmering on water in the distance or the swaying of the huge trees in my yard. My children are special beings. When they were young, I didn’t always see that as I rushed them off to school in the morning, to their activities in the afternoon and to bed at night all the while correcting their behavior or nagging them to do something. My husband is a special mate. I don’t always see that as we rush to clean up after dinner, pay bills, of the fold laundry, watch the news, and fall exhausted into bed never having even bothered to say, “I love you” or “Thank you.”
If I slow down enough to notice these things, I don’t always appreciate the uniqueness of what I have in my life – or of my life in general. It is easy to say my life is just a life. My kids are just kids. My husband is just a mate. My house is just a house. In fact, all these things represent miracles. I need to slow down and look and say instead, “Wow, this really is a life, she really is a child, he really is a mate, that really is a house.”
Seeing the Miracles
When we use the word “just,” we take significance away from the words that follow. For example, if we say, “That is just a tree,” it, indeed, becomes just a tree and nothing more. If we learn a little Yiddish, we can change that sentence dramatically by saying, “That is, ta-keh, a tree.” The word ta-keh has no meaning in and of itself, but when used in a sentence it dramatically puts attention on the words that follow, which are always meant to be seen as a miracle.
So, if I look at my house and say, “That is a house,” or “That is just a house,” nothing more exists but a house. If, instead, I say, “That, ta-keh, is a house,” I begin to see the miracle of the home in which I live. If I say, “That, ta-keh, is my daughter,” I see the miracle that is my child. My perception is changed from seeing the ordinary to seeing the extraordinary instead.
All too often I find myself caught up in work-related, family-related and life-related activities that seem too pressing to put aside. I drive much too quickly down the road of my life. My friend’s phone call that day showed me that I needed to slow down, and it reminded me put my foot on the brakes. That, ta-keh, was a phone call! It miraculously caused me to reduce my speed and smell the proverbial roses…to look at the view of the ocean, to watch the band-tailed pigeons trying to land on my feeder, to appreciate the goodness in my daughter and son, to feel the love my husband has for me, to re-evaluate what it is I want to do with my life and my work, to appreciate the achievement of even a small goal or the receipt of an e-mail from a friend.
Every moment of every day represents a miracle. If we realize that, we gain a whole new insight into our lives. We begin to live our lives in the moment and truly experience the miracle of life. And that, ta-keh, is a miracle in and of itself.