In reading books like Ann Voskamp's (which I recently read and discussed here) and blogs that flow out of other modern-day mystics, I recognize something familiar. It reminds me of back when I lived next to the mountain and the jungle and the lake and the ocean (my lake... pictured above).
I sought beauty. It seeped into me, the small things that others missed. I don't know if it was how much I loved that place, or perhaps the emotional highs and lows of a hormonal teenager, I only know that the world bled glory. It found me but I went looking for more anyways.
I used to go on walks before sunset in the four years I lived on "the hill" that was actually just a foothill of a mountain. I wonder, if I walked it now, would I notice and know it the way I did then, when I would stop where the trees dropped away and watch in awe at the clouds and sunset? The way I would breathe deep and wonder if the air really was sweet or if I was just infatuated with this place. The green grass, the flowers, the buzz of cicadas and calls of jungle birds, the way the badly made road dissolved into ditch and field. I walked and sang, sometimes aloud, sometimes just inside.
It wasn't just my walks, either. The rainy days filled me with joy for the cool and the beating on the tin roof. The drive home, from a hill into a valley, like a slow-motion roller coaster sweeping into the golden hour. The mornings in which I would lay quiet and read scripture, often feeling I could explode with joy.
It wasn't just the place. The place was beautiful, but I saw things. I saw the sunrises as I sat with a journal and Bible, and my heart caught in exultation. I could have just passed by all of that. I saw falling stars in a crowded night sky because I lay on the sand of the beach to see them. I saw clouds rolling and playing with sunlight because I would go and sit on the big concrete transformers to watch them.. I listened and drank in the sound of voices blended together. Night of hilarity with friends were beautiful, not just fun, because love is beautiful. I remember running a mile in the dark around a field, not because I loved running (I hated it) but because I wanted to breath in the night and when I ran into it I found I kept on running for the joy of being there.
Yes. That dreamy eye for beauty was me. It bled into time in Chicago, when I watched the birds fly circles around the intersection in the cold, and the snow swirl and silence the bustle into padded quiet. The wind on my face on the lakefront trail, the sun on the buildings, the energy of the city streets, the undiscovered corners and shops, even the light on the glasses and the rhythm of dance in the events I catered. I saw beauty in the city, too.
I wrestle in the daily grind, in a adulthood, in suburbia... to keep a heart that sees all of this. That is what I liked best about reading Ann Voskamp's book - she's reminded me to look and see what is all around me - beauty that causes my heart to sing and my soul to worship.
But the irony: Don't I often desperately want to wriggle free of the confines of a small life? Yet when I stand before immensity that heightens my smallness - I have never felt sadness. Only burgeoning wonder. Is it because within each frame of finite flesh lies the likeness of infinite God? In all things large and spectacular, we recognize glimpses of home and the call to our own deeper chemistry. Do we writhe to peel out of our smallness and into the big life because that fits our inborn God-image?
Echo calls to echo, deep to deep.