There are lines from a poem by Ted Kooser to his mother that I often think of. In the poem simply called “Mother”, Kooser mourns the death of his mother. He misses her. But it’s the last lines that haunt me:
Wouldn’t it be what you taught me to look like
in the world to see life play in everything
I should be lonely forever.
I take these words as a guide. They are my prayer for my calling as a mother, that I would teach my sons to see life in everything.
I call this way of looking at the world a “discipline of perception”. I know I didn’t coined this phrase, but I can’t remember who did it or who taught me to look at the world that way. I am now teaching my sons.
One discipline of observation is making a thoughtful effort to see the beautiful and good in the world. It can be so easy to take the longer walk home to catch a glimpse of Lake Washington or see my sons first grade teacher’s house and hope she’s in her yard for a quick wave . Or it can mean pointing out that the sunflowers in our garden have finally bloomed and taking the 30 seconds to look at them.
We look all day long for these opportunities to show each other something beautiful. When we notice something beautiful, we perceive God’s presence around us. We know the rest of the family looks and listens every time we do this. We learn to be present with one another and with God.
The big things in life – birth, marriage, celebration – don’t happen that often. We have to learn to see splendor every day – how our older neighbor’s brother comes over once a month and cuts each other’s hair on the porch, or how father and son have the same profile, even the wrinkles on their faces showing their bond and love.
I suppose I sharpened that discipline through the exam. I turn to this prayer especially on evenings when I feel lost. If I can’t see or feel God’s presence in my life, I pray that he will show me where he was that day. And he always does. I have never seen God in a burning bush or sitting on a tombstone. But I’ve always felt God’s presence whenever I see a bald eagle soaring over Lake Washington, or when I hear the friendly way in which strangers are shared. I know God is here. I see him now in the present instead of just looking back. Through a discipline of perception, I also share God’s presence with my fellow human beings – especially with my sons.
Photo by Jon Sullivan on Pixnio.