Seeing the world anew in a new year

Last week I went to Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, to the funeral and burial of my last living aunt, Mary Barrar. It was a time of sadness and celebration, as we remembered aunt Mary as a take-charge, faith-filled, loving woman.

During the last two years of her life, as she became frailer, she was moved into a retirement village

The night before I left to return to Honduras, her son George drove me around the grounds to share some of his memories of being with his mother there. It was snowy but you could see that the grounds were beautiful are well-cared for.

Aunt Mary had mild dementia and George told me how each time he took her out to the gardens at Dunwoody she would be in awe, since each visit was a new experience. She did not recall that she had seen them before.

Dementia can be awful and very troubling, both for those who suffer and for their loved ones.

But George’s reflection made me think about the gift of seeing things each day as if they were new.

A line from Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poem “God’s Grandeur” came to mind as I thought more on this.

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things

A new year has begun. Maybe the best resolution I can make it be to rise each day to a new day, seeing the world anew, standing in awe and gratitude to God for “the dearest freshness deep down things.”

2 responses to “Seeing the world anew in a new year

  1. I was sick for two weeks; the week after Thanksgiving and the first week of December. I don’t do well when I am sick…the little committee in my head is constantly reminding me of what I am not doing and how far I am getting behind at work. By the grace of God, and I mean it was truly a gift of God’s grace, my eyes fell upon a book while scanning a shelf for something to read. The book, “Wherever You Go There You Will Be: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn, called to me…”mindfulness”… staying in the present moment, my heart felt peace.

    In one section of the book, Kabat-Zinn reflects on a passage from Thoreau’s book “Walden” recounting how one morning after taking his bath, Thoreau sat down in the doorway of his cabin and before he knew it, he saw the shadows created by the setting sun. He had spent the entire day sitting in his doorway observing the woods and the life and the sounds within. This reminded me of my love of nature and the summers I spent traipsing about the Rocky Mountains of northwest Colorado working for the U.S. Forest Service. I resolved that I would get out and do more walking; a resolution I’ve sporadically kept since regaining my health in mid-December.

    As you described Aunt Mary’s awe at the gardens at Dunwoody, how “each visit was a new experience”, I was reminded of the walk I took yesterday morning. I love walking, especially in the winter in Iowa. The crispness of the cold biting at my warm face…like a spearmint candy in my mouth it fills my lungs with refreshment…the crunch of snow underfoot…the white virgin carpet of snow that stretches across my neighbors’ yards. As I walked, my mind would not settle down. I found myself thinking I should call this person or that person. But I was again blessed by God’s grace as I recalled Thoreau’s experience in his cabin doorway and how my walk wasn’t about “doing” but about “being”. So just as Aunt Mary’s trips to a garden she’d been to many times before were a “new experience” so was a walk around my neighborhood that I’ve made many times a “new experience” for me. Whether it was my curiosity at why this branch or that branch was on the ground, the many shades of gray that made up the sky at 7:10am or the clippity-clop sound of the traffic on the interstate highway a quarter of a mile away, my walk was truly a new experience. This morning’s walk yet a completely different experience. I am truly grateful for the grace that allows me to see my world anew!

  2. Melody Rockwell

    Thank you! When I read your posts, my heart is filled with gratitude & a leaning into true life. Blessed New Year, Melody

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