During a telephone conversation a few years ago, friend of mine asked me, “Are you enjoying your new house?” She knew we had purchased a 25-year-old home in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California and our back yard consisted of a fabulous Redwood grove. The house had a two-story western-facing wall consisting of floor to ceiling windows, and the front of the house primarily was windows as well. Thus, we enjoyed the affect of living outside even when we were inside, and we had a spectacular view of the mountains to the west. However, the house needed a lot of interior and exterior work, and the property, although once someone’s pride and joy, could not claim to be in better shape.
“Well, we’ve been working outside, but we still have so much to do. And while we’ve been doing that, nothing has been accomplished inside the house,” I remember replying. “It’s a lot of work.”
“I lived on an old estate,” she replied, “and I know how you can get caught up in the upkeep. It can be overwhelming, but don’t forget to stop and enjoy your home and the beautiful setting in which you live.”
I heard what she was saying. “I do stop sometimes,” I thought defensively, “to admire the sunset or to watch the hummingbirds but not very often, not often enough.”
I kept thinking about her words long after I had hung up the phone. Today, I am once again remembering them and the revelation I had afterwards. I realized that it wasn’t just the house and the beautiful surroundings I didn’t and still don’t stop to appreciate and I now live in a newer and nicer home with a beautiful view through the Redwood’s to the ocean often enough. It was and still is everything about my life that I didn’t stop to appreciate. In fact, I have many miracles in my life that I don’t stop to acknoweldge acknowledge.
Life progresses forward at what feels like an every increasing pace and out of necessity our focus is on that forward motion. Just as when I drive on the narrow and curvy mountain roads that lead to my home my eyes never stray from what lies ahead of me for if they do I might end up in a deep ravine or wrapped around a tree, I must keep my eyes on where I think I am going. Just as when I drive down the steep roads, I must be ever wary that I do not let the car pick up too much speed and lose control, thus careening out of control at the next turn, I must be ever cautious of the same fate befalling me in general.
It is easy to be caught in our headlong rush toward our goals and desires or simply towards getting everything done before the day ends. Yet, in the process, we forget the pleasure found in slowing down, opening the windows, smelling the sweet almost-spring air and appreciating all we pass along the way.
My home is a special place. I didn’t always see that as I rushed to strip wallpaper or clear away overgrown brush at my old home. I don’t always see it now as I stare at my computer screen all day rarely even glancing out the window to feel blessed by the view of sun glimmering on water in the distance or the swaying of the huge trees in my yard. My children are special beings. I don’t always see that as I rush them off to school in the morning, to their activities in the afternoon and to bed at night all the while correcting their behavior or nagging them to do something. My husband is a special mate. I don’t always see that as we rush to clean up after dinner, pay bills, fold laundry, watch the news, and fall exhausted into bed never having even bothered to say, “I love you” or “Thank you.”
If I do slow down enough to notice these things, however, I don’t always notice the uniqueness of what I have in my life or of my life in general. It is easy to say my life is just a life. My kids are just kids. My husband is just a mate. My house is just a house. In fact, all these things represent miracles. I need to really slow down and look and say instead, “Wow, this really is a life, she really is a child, he really is a mate, that really is a house.”
When we use the word just, we take significance away from the words that follow. For example, if we say, “That is just a tree,” it is indeed just a tree and nothing more. If we learn a little Yiddish, we can change that sentence dramatically by saying, “That is, ta-keh, a tree.” The word ta-keh has no meaning in and of itself, but it dramatically puts attention on the words that follow, which are always a miracle.
So, if I look at my house and say, “That is a house,” or “That is just a house,” nothing more exists but a house. If instead I say, “That, ta-keh, is a house,” I begin to see the miracle of the home in which I live. If I say, “That, ta-key, is my daughter,” I see the miracle that is my child. My perception is changed from seeing the ordinary to seeing instead the extraordinary.
All too often I find myself caught up in work-related and family-related and life-related things that seemed too pressing to put aside. I drive much too quickly down the road of my life. My friend’s phone call that day showed me that I needed to slow down, and it reminds me again to put my foot on the brake. That, ta-keh, was a phone call! It miraculously caused me to reduce my speed and smell the proverbial roses to look at the view of the ocean, to watch the band-tailed pigeons trying to land on my feeder, to appreciate the goodness in my daughter and son, to feel the love I have for my husband, to re-evaluate what it is I want to be doing with my life and my work, to appreciate the achievement of even a small goal or an e-mail from a friend.
Every moment of every day represents a miracle. If we can realize that, we gain a whole new insight into our lives. We can begin to live our lives in the moment and truly experience the miracle of life. And that is, in and of itself, a miracle.