February 25, 2020
Dear Friends --
Some of you may remember that when I began my mountain climb I quoted the ever quotable Frederick Buechner, who once said this: "Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid."
You've probably discovered that really any time I write here it's mainly a meditation on that rather simple sentiment, which of course isn't simple at all. I'm living through perhaps one of the most terrible chapters of all, and yet I'm seeing evidence of beauty like never before. It's an oftentimes gorgeous paradox that's more comforting than vexing. More reassuring than terrifying. Mainly it's a space that's tender, and kind, and so very fragile.
Sometimes, especially if you're paying very close attention, discovering the beauty alongside the terrible is absolute magic. Which brings us to Wednesday.
Wednesday marks my return to Foxy and her forever mighty fighter jets. Wednesday is also the beginning of Lent.
And I have an idea.
In honor of these 40 days ahead of us, where the tradition is normally about giving something up, instead I'd like to invite us all to bring a more purposeful eye to the miraculous and often small moments of beauty surrounding our each day. And if you feel inclined, send that little moment of beauty my way, and to anyone else who finds herself on a mountain.
My view from the mountain has included thousands of these beautiful moments. Here are three:
The time I was in the waiting room before going in to get hooked up to Foxy and they called the name of an older gentleman sitting near me. He stood up, walked slowly with his cane, and found the nurse. Before she escorted him back to the infusion room, he simply said: "Thank you. It's a privilege to be here." I didn't realize you could express both grace and gratitude in so few words. But now I know you can.
The way Connor recently described the genius of Hildur Guðnadóttir, an Icelandic musician and classically trained cellist. She won the Oscar this year for scoring the film "Joker," and to hear Connor tell of her creativity, her mastery, her artistry, her devotion to the notion that music can make a story live inside your soul, was to know for certain that my 16 year old music-loving son's world is far more expansive, and more imaginative because of her gift to us all.
The moment when I was finishing a ride in an uber, and the driver turned to me as I was exiting the car to hold my hand for a brief minute, and to tell me he would keep me in his prayers. I had spent the previous 25 minutes in the backseat of his car on a call, crying with a dear friend about some of the hardest part of this mountain, and he courageously joined my story, even as the briefest cameo character. We both were fully alive in those precious 30 seconds, and promised to give each other five stars.
My brilliant friend Ashley, who lives in London and texts me sometimes as her day is ending, and my day is beginning, is a masterful beauty finder. I mentioned this idea to her, and she reminded me of one our favorite books from our college days, and how maybe this is what I'm trying to say:
“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But -- and this is the point -- who gets excited by a mere penny? But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.”
― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Some of you have reached out in recent days and have asked if there is something you might do for me in light of the latest twist, and it's always the most generous and lovely question to be asked.
A Lenten season dedicated to spotting beauty and sharing it with those on their mountains is my response. It's a chance to pause, maybe squint a little more purposefully, and lift up that bit of splendor too often hiding in plain sight. Did you see that elegant sliver of a moon tonight? Or hear the laughter of the four year old trying to catch bubbles at the park? A generous hand somehow designed both moments, but I would have missed them if I weren't on the lookout.
So let's set out, shall we? Pay attention, pause at the small moments that take your breath away, and tell me what you unearth. Text, call, email, or write a novel if you feel so inspired. Just know there's an open invitation here to bear witness to the wonder, in whatever form it may take.
I hope these 40 days of beauty scouting is a gift for you, and for me, and an offering for all of us.
Just think of what we'll discover. Just think of who we'll become. We'll have a lifetime of days to tell about it.