In challenging times, there are always bright moments of light to lift us up. People singing from balconies out onto deserted streets in Italy, others joining together to amplify the voices of the unheard, and, in one of the most delightful examples, an out of work sports color commentator putting his talents to use to give people a glimmer of cheer during dark times. Sidelined by the coronavirus and the consequent shut down of sports, Andrew Cotter has been making videos providing the color commentary for his two dogs’ adventures. Meet Olive and Mabel as you make way for a bit of delight:
The daffodils are coming. Planted last fall–before the snow, before the holidays, before the pandemic– they are starting to poke up. Soon they will be blooming everywhere adding cheer to the lives of whomever might see them.
A garden is a microcosm of life. Seasons of vibrance and beauty fall away into a frozen landscape seemingly devoid of color. But then, maybe when you’ve almost forgotten, there is blossoming and rebirth.
Gardeners and children know something that many of us have forgotten: there is joy in the dirt.
It turns out, “Prozac may not be the only way to get rid of your serious blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain and are without side effects and chemical dependency potential.”
Studies show the benefits gardeners and children will swear by of playing in the dirt are actually based on science.
It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress. Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.
So go ahead. Get dirty.
Patience is tough. But even in the most aggravating times of waiting, nature keeps going and sends us messages of hope. Dead looking trees budding, flowers blossoming, birds singing and looking for places to build their nests. Warmth seeping back into the frigid ground.
Spring hasn’t been cancelled.
What do you think heaven looks like? Certainly, if we can see there, it is a place of great beauty and marvelous complexity where we marvel at God’s creation. If we can hear there, music that stirs the soul must be the score. And so on through our senses
But what if we are not corporeal in heaven and don’t have senses per se? What then? Perhaps it is a place of harmony, of communion, with everyone different but united in common purpose.
These are good things, yes? Appreciating beauty in God’s creation, enjoying music that stirs the soul, being so present in our bodies that we marvel at its systems? And, of course, communion, harmony, peace? These are good things.
Perhaps, today, we can take time to bring a bit of heaven to earth. Pause to admire the beauty around us, savor, marvel, be astonished. And then with our senses full and renewed, have courage to bring peace and harmony to our day.
When we lose our way or feel overwhelmed, we can return to nature and be renewed. Hear the birds singing their spring song. Watch them collect twigs and bits for their nests. See the long grass ripple in a gentle wind like ocean waves. Breathe in the sweet earthy fragrance of the morning. Feel small and surrounded by an amazing, complicated system that has been pulsating with life for millions of years. That awe is good for us:
“It has long been established that a healthy diet and lots of sleep and exercise bolster the body’s defenses against physical and mental illnesses. But the new study, whose findings were just published in the journal Emotion, is one of the first to look at the role of positive emotions in that arsenal.
“That awe, wonder, and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions—a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art—has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy,” says UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, a coauthor of the study.”
Breathe in the day, full of life and possibility. Breathe out the stress, the worry, the defeat. In. Out. In. Out. In.
Often life doesn’t make sense. So many petty squabbles, too much injustice, difficulties, disagreements, struggle. Why? What for? What’s the point? And then something remarkable happens, and we can see behind the veil to the beauty of things, the mystery. For a moment we feel a communion with each other and with all living things. We can stand in awe of creation.
For just such a moment, take time to watch this surfer communing with dolphins. It’s beautiful.
Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a beautiful intrusion? A melting crayon sunset, the waft of jasmine, a baby’s laughter? These moments infuse the day with depth and magic when we pause to soak them in. And then, to think that these little beautiful miracles are always unfolding around you as you go through the day, but often you just don’t notice–amazing! What a remarkable place we have here.
To experience a bit of awe and magic today, take a look at this gardening swan. Delightful!
Be on the lookout for a beautiful intrusion today.
Notice the beauty all around you. That butterfly. That blossoming flower. That cloud formation. That wind against your cheek. That gnarled tree. Stop and notice.
It is so easy to miss it.
It’s too easy to forget that we are of this earth. Our agendas and business suits disguise us. Our tasks distract us.
But we are sensuous beings, of the earth and for the earth. We, like the tree frog, are part of creation. How lovely it is to remember that, to appreciate our moment of life in the grand scheme of things, to feel the wind in our hair and the grass under our feet. To drink deep of this moment when we are here.
We are here.
Once there was a man who found a penguin covered in oil, suffering, unable to move, on a Brazilian beach. He took mercy on the penguin, fed it sardines, cleaned it, and nursed it back to health. And, after 11 months, the little penguin returned to the sea.
But the following year, that penguin, Dindim, came back to the 71 year-old retired brick-layer who had saved him. And Dindim keeps coming back, traveling over eight thousand miles, to visit Mr. De Souza every year since 2011. When Dindim sees Mr. De Souza he wags his little tail and barks like a dog, settling into Mr. De Souza’s lap for cuddles and sardines. Dindim won’t let any other animals near his man.
Every year, while others of his kind are nesting, Dindim returns to Mr. De Souza who thinks of the little penguin as his child.
Every year for six years now.
What kind of miracle is this? An abiding love between a man and a penguin. A wild animal filled with love and gratitude. Nature more complex and rich and full of mystery than we ever could have imagined.