Sunday, August 14, 2011

Show Up for the Miracles

My wife, Kathleen, is fond of saying, "If you're not there when the miracle happens, you won't see it." It's about showing up and paying attention. And, I would add, if you do happen to be there when it happens, don't take what's going on around you for granted.

August in the Texas Hill Country means temperatures above 100 degrees F. Hot. Dry. Often not a cloud in the sky. The sun doing what it does. But most people don't really pay attention to the sun. It's hard to look at, actually painful and dangerous to look at directly. So we go about our days with the vague sense that "the sun is out," meaning it's daytime.

We call it "the sun." We don't think of it as "our star." We don't think about what that ferocious, blazing entity really is, what a star is. We don't think about how big it is, how old it is, what's happening on its surface. We know that all life depends on it, but ironically the radiation from our star would soon kill all life on Earth if it weren't for our planet's unique magnetic field, which deflects most of our star's radiation. Something really awesome is happening only 93 million miles from us, it's plainly visible almost every day, and we almost never think about it.

We take it for granted.

We look up at the light blue expanse we call "the sky." But what we're looking at is nothing - the black void. It seems blue from Earth's surface because of how sunlight illuminates the gases in our delicate, thin atmosphere. "The sky" is actually the incredibly thin layer of air we breathe.

We breathe our atmosphere all day long, every day. So of course it's easy to take it for granted. But the more you understood what our atmosphere is, how fragile it is, the less you're inclined to take it for granted.

At night, our moon is often visible. It doesn't hurt our eyes to look at it so we gaze at it longer, appreciate it's beauty. But we don't think about its size. In our solar system, it's the largest moon in relation to its planet. It's like being a part of a two-planet system. We don't think about the rare chance event that created our moon. We don't think about how it affects the environment on Earth, when in fact, if the moon weren't there, the Earth would wobble erratically on its axis, making life as we know it almost impossible. Very likely the first single-cell lifeforms and later all life on land might never have happened without the tides, which are caused by the moon.

We notice that it's up there, then we look away, taking it for granted.

When I lived in Virginia, a lush, beautiful place with diverse habitats, I was aware that there were birds in our yard. I had seen larger birds on the shore. I could identify a cardinal and a grackle. But I didn't pay much attention. I had no idea that there were over 50 species of birds that came to our yard. Later, I learned to identify birds and now I pay attention. Here in the Hill Country we have a list of 90 species of birds that we've seen in our yard.

I used to take birds for granted, but now I watch them with fascination. The other day we had a sprinkler working in the back yard, and the birds came to it to bathe. As I watched I noticed this colorful bird enjoying the spray:

2011 photo by Kathleen Scott, used with permission.
It's a golden-cheeked warbler, one of the more than 800 species that live in the United States. It's rare. If you look at a habitat map in a bird book, you'll see a tiny colored spot in the middle of Texas. This species of warbler lives there and nowhere else. Birdwatchers from all over the country travel to our area hoping to see one. The birds come to our yard every year, attracted by the ash junipers that are common in the Hill Country. To a golden-cheeked warbler, the bark of the mature ash juniper is perfect for nest-making. As you can see, they are as beautiful as they are rare.

We have a choice. It's easy to take what's happening around us for granted. We can think of everything around us as ordinary. We can live our lives without noticing or appreciating the wonders and the miracles.

Or we can show up for them. We can pay attention to our star. Our precious moon. The air we breathe. The diverse creatures that struggle for life alongside us every day. Learn more about these wonders. Learn to appreciate them for what they really are.

It's a thrilling way to avoid wasting your life.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

shareandi said...

I'm reminded.

Thanks, Mr Coates.