awareness: noticing the marvellous in the mundane

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Awareness

 I might sense
 the slight tightening 
 of a stitch,

 an awareness
 of being hemmed in,
 then easily miss

 the way you weave
 your miracles
 in the mundane.

 Unless my eyes
 are open, noticing,
 ready for

 a surprise, prepared
 to watch and see
 what lies behind

 the ordinary,
 then I could glimpse
 the deftly woven

 warp and weft
 of your holy threads,
 your embroidering. 

 Although it is more
 than a visual
 response, more than

 a second glance
 required to 
 observe a sacred

 hand at work,
 a gentle touch
 igniting the humble
 soil of earth.

 Because you ask
 me to look 
 inwardly as well

 as outwardly,
 to catch the softest
 tread of your

 footsteps inside 
 my expectant heart
 as you walk,

 fill it with your love,
 your presence,
 and your thoughts. 
 © joylenton

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God… As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of A Young Girl

Prayer

Loving Creator God,

We give you thanks and praise for creation’s stunning beauty and the soul soothing, calming effects it has on our minds and hearts. May we sense the safety of being hemmed in by your grace and love as we face tough situations and challenging circumstances. Help us to notice the way you skilfully weave the marvellous into the mundane for us to enjoy each day.. Heighten our awareness of being part of the miracle as we learn to appreciate these gifts to the full.
Amen

stilling: learning to love your ordinary life

stilling - choose joy - learning to love your ordinary life @poetryjoy.com

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” — Maya Angelou

So often fear of change nibbles at our souls like a restless rat. It makes us fail to appreciate what we already have before us, right here, right now. I find myself falling into a dissatisfaction trap whenever I forget to live with mindful awareness and a joyful and grateful heart.

We can get so caught up in the challenges, fears and frustrating minutiae of life that we neglect to lift up our heads and appreciate where and how we are really situated. God is the giver of all good gifts, and He strews gifts of grace along each person’s daily pathway—but we need receptive eyes, stilled minds, and open hearts to see, sense and be thankful for them. 

Because each day presents us with an opportunity to taste joy, sense the marvellous in the mundane, express our gratitude, and give God praise for who He is and how He takes such great care of us. 

stilling - forest - trees - God is the giver of all good gifts quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“So much has been given to me; I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied.” — Helen Keller

Stilling

I hold my breath—as if I could
still the clock, hold back
the swinging seasons, perhaps,

call time on winter’s
cold, dark, muffled cloak,
the icy grip of SAD that sends
me to my inner knees.

Can I not simply
still time on this moment’s
pendulum, which I prefer

to those that have gone
before? Those lockdown
days, weeks and months
of great adaptation and change.

My mind (helpfully) reminds
me that nothing stays
the same. Each dull routine

still has to yield
to the unexpected,
the suddenness of the new
or the long neglected.

Yet something in me
feels as if I want
to remain rooted in Now,

to savour summer
before it segues into autumn,
get my fill of light, of warmth,
of hope, and snatches of joy.

Then another thing
comes to my remembrance,
and I muse on the way

each day has opportunity
to receive such gifts
if I remain receptive enough

to notice, and still
my heart to not reject them.
© joylenton

stilling - dandelion clock - stilling poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?” — Anne Frank

Although I frequently want to press pause on the moments I enjoy because they seem so fleeting, it isn’t a life of busy eventfulness I crave but a stilled, peaceful soul saturated in holy satisfaction, love and grace.  Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps us stay calm and content. Here are 3 things I’m grateful for:

  • having energy and focus enough to write this post
  • our tomatoes are greening at last, if not reddening yet
  • I prepared this before a scorching heatwave hit to fog my thoughts

What are you thankful for today, my friend? 🙂 ❤

reality: what helps keep us grounded and at peace

reality - trees - sky - landscape - what helps keep us grounded and at peace (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

These are deeply unsettling times we are living in, aren’t they? They make us yearn for a sense of solidity and thirst for a firm grounding beneath our feet. Perhaps it exists as a present reality, closer at hand than we might think.

Creation breathes out its beauty and begs us to receive it as soul food, as a nurturing balm to help us stay grounded and calm. Each time we pay attention to growing flowers and plants we get to observe how nature deals with its own seasons of alteration and loss.

In the tanka sequence poem below, I invite you to take a journey of the heart, a pause to consider what nature has to teach us now, what lies ahead, and how we are all connected to the past.

May you receive an awakening of hope and faith that will help ground you in the realest of realities. Namely that God is still in charge, and all things are somehow being worked out for good even as our lives feel shaken to the core.

reality - red and yellow begonias - Creation breathes out its beauty quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Reality

what is real
is the soil beneath our feet
solidity
earth grounds us, holds us fast
when all else trembles into dust

the imprints
markers of every man
woman and child
who ever lived and died
are seeded, left behind

the earth
holds all our memories
in its DNA
it doesn’t forget how we lived
breathed and walked this way

every acreage
in the changing landscape
holds a legacy
it will keep the faith for us
when we are lost, faithless

reality - garden - flowers - gate - every acreage in the changing landscape holds a legacy - (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

nature sings
an eternal siren song
we strain to listen
unaccustomed to its melody
the way it reverberates and speaks

our reality
is so often shaped by lust
fuelled by greed
hot desire can set us on fire
we lose what we have coveted

we don’t need
all that much to survive
we do need
the insight to understand
just how to live, grow and thrive

reality - bee - yellow flowers - we don't need all that much to survive (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

the natural world
provides all our necessities
all we need to live
enough resources to share
if we were generous and fair

the ethereal
the mystical, intangible
lies within our reach
it’s already invaded earth
promising us new life, new birth

our souls
rooted to earth’s reality
become whole
when they are connected
to Father, Son, Holy Spirit

God made
all that is sensed and found
he gave
his life to open our eyes
to the unlimited beyond
© joylenton

reality - garden - pond - leaves - our souls rooted to earth's reality become whole (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

“The calm of a summer night
embodies Your peace, O Lord.
The beauty of a sunset
embodies Your truth, O Lord.
Everything in all creation
shouts the reality of You.”

Transformed by Love: Prayers and Reflections for All Seasons by Liz Babbs

hope: it’s closer to home than we might think

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

hope - Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher - quote @poetryjoy.com
Finding hope

Can my soul dance
at the sight of a single, gently
swaying, humble dandelion?

Can I see hope
in such a small, small offering,
more a weed than anything?

Some days it is
beyond me to catch the briefest
glimpse and be fully satisfied.

Because I hunger
after beauty and colour, of which
my yearning soul never tires.

I long for hope
to reveal itself in the bold, whereas
it often comes unawares.

It winds itself
into our consciousness
waving a filmy, fragile flag.

No sudden white
flare or something more rare
but a simple garden sighting.

A tiny thing, perhaps,
a mere slender seedling, and yet
it calls us to pay attention.

Here, here, it says,
I have arrived again,
I never completely disappear.

Let your eyes scan
the world or come closer now
and find me in the infinite.

Maintain openness
and you will soon discover
hope never leaves you bereft.
© joylenton

Yellow is not only a humble dandelion’s distinguishing hue, it’s a colour associated with the positive traits of happiness, optimism, hope, creativity, sunshine and spring. It cheers our hearts and adds a welcome dash of brightness wherever it appears, especially when we encounter it in daffodils.

“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” Hans Christian Andersen

hope - solo dandelion - garden - finding hope poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Dandelions—those persistent, thriving little wildflowers/weeds and intrusive curse of gardeners—actually come with a vibrant message of hope for us. They symbolise the warmth and power of the rising sun and healing from emotional pain, to name but two of their suggested characteristics. You can find out more here.

I love dandelions because they’re such a cheerful colour and often the only flowers in our tiny garden for months. They’re also a hopeful sign of spring’s imminence. Maybe it’s worth leaving them alone for a while so we can enjoy their vivid brightness before we replace them with more favoured flowers and plants to grace our gardens with, like sunflowers, perhaps? 😉💚🌻🌺

hope - Where flowers bloom, so does hope quote @poetryjoy.com

melody: how it echoes through nature and life

“There’s a melody in everything. And once you find the melody, then you connect immediately with the heart.” — Carlos Santana

Nature’s melody

I long to hear
the call of ancient sounds
from our primeval ancestry,
echoes of days
before our history scrawled
its way upon the page.

May birdsong beckon
me to a deeper
sense of belonging
and connectivity
to all sentient things.

May the swish
of sea washing waves
on sand become
a rhythmic melody,
like a heartbeat.

Let whispering wind
speak hushed words
I can only sense if I listen
mindfully, carefully,
with greater intent.

Let me allow
more space for creation’s song
to sing loud and long
repeatedly into my depleted
soul creativity.

May I ache for
understanding of nature’s
melody, while it breathes
and speaks soft
to every living
creature—and to me.
©joylenton

“Nature is man’s teacher. She unfolds her treasure to his search, unseals his eye, illumes his mind, and purifies his heart; an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence.” — Alfred Billings Street

“I arise today through
The strength of heaven:
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendour of fire.
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.”
— Saint Patrick, an excerpt from his Breastplate Prayer

melody - excerpt from Saint Patrick's breastplate prayer @poetryjoy.com

Much evidence exists, anecdotal and otherwise, that spending time in nature is healing for body and soul. Forest bathing is being touted as a good thing, as is gardening, because nature has the ability to lift us out of our daily preoccupations and worries. It’s even been said to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Listening to the sounds of nature is also beneficial and freely available to all. Because even in city life there are plants, trees, clouds, birds and sky.  Creation continually sings its melody to us, and we hear it if our ears are receptive enough to listen.

And if, like me, you cannot get out into a natural environment as much as you want to, the video below might help you feel like you are there, and possibly relax you as well. Because we could all use an extra bit of stress relief right now… 😊❤️🌿

melody - trees - leaves - sunlight - nature's melody poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

waves: seeing sacredness in everyday things

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.” – Thomas Merton

A holy kind of noticing takes place when we view creation’s glory through a lens of faith and grace. Especially the minor things we might have otherwise overlooked. They begin to stand out for us as portents of promise, signs of beauty and praise, and messages of God’s love and grace. Will you pause a while to appreciate this with me?

waves - clouds - rural landscape - sky - trees - If we are to know life in all its fullness quote @poetryjoy.com

Sacred waves

Oh the calm, calm waves of sky
reaching out to me in scattered, skeined
arms of pale, muted grey cloud

singing out their love, revealing how
the deepest act of devotion
I might be capable of this day, this moment

maybe, is to simply watch and wonder,
pray, and absorb the gift they bring,
give thanks for my life, this offering.

Because here and now are the most
important moments I exist,
in which to sense a holy invitation

to see, touch and taste, to focus on
the divine aspects, the holy,
wholesome sacredness of this

oh so ordinary, fleeting, minor
moment when God chooses
to remind me of his presence,

and then to stretch out my fingertips,
to say yes, I will look, I will listen,
and I will receive your love and grace.

I will take this offering as a sign
of hope, and I will secure
it fast within my insecure heart,

to take out and examine again
on darker days, when light and joy
seem so very far away,

and I will recall the preciousness
of my soul’s brief noticing,
as a harbinger of light and spring.
© joylenton

“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” – Martin Luther

nature: its ability to calm and heal our souls

nature - its ability to calm and heal our souls - robin on grass (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Few sights are as cheering to winter-weary hearts than spotting a red-breasted robin in the garden. They are welcome visitors who cannot help but make us smile because of their lively hue and perky hopping.

In the English countryside, robins feature heavily in our sightings for large parts of the year. They’ve also inspired today’s poem, which was prompted by thoughts of my daughter-in-law.

She’s a keen gardener who often finds solace (and a necessary distraction from her busy business life) when she’s outside, getting her hands dirty with tasks. Being in touch with living plants helps shift vestiges of SAD-induced sadness in her heart.

The robin

Water-logged and rimed with frost,
sodden leaves get trodden underfoot
as she makes her way across
the uneven garden path.

Her heart sinks as low as her boots
as she contemplates the work
before her—clearing cluttered ground,
preparing for winter to fully come.

As her spade sinks in, she glances
up and sees a robin hopping
around, close by but no longer
shy or uncertain, more a bold thing.

She smiles at her avian
companion, who had graced
the garden in summertime
with brief glimpses now and then.

No longer intent on nest building
or family, she hops contentedly,
pausing to check on her human
friend who she converses with.

Maybe this is no coincidence
in these colder months, with their
depressing, darkening days and drizzle,
that she would appear by chance.

Perhaps there’s hidden symbolism
here, as her furry friend is known
to signal spiritual rebirth,
the new, divine, and the next.

Work stops for now as her mind
follows that thought, making space
for a sign from God to lift her
heart in these chilly wintry months.
© joylenton

We each try to find a way to help alleviate the darkness that can inhabit our hearts. Sometimes, just reading about nature helps. I’m dipping into ‘The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us – A Diary’ by Emma Mitchell and finding it comforting.

I know I feel so much better when I can get outside, even briefly, and surround myself with nature’s natural sedative, calming effects, instead of sitting indoors brooding about my problems.

nature - countryside - grass - sky - trees - natural sedative effects quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Also, looking out the window or watching nature programmes is enough to temporarily plug the “craving to be outside” gap which M.E and chronic illness tend to leave in their wake.

While many of us in the northern hemisphere struggle with wintry ills and chills, may we aim to encourage ourselves with remembrance of God’s faithfulness to us in the past. Let’s keep signs of spring and flames of hope alive in our hearts. Because that’s how we survive and thrive during hard times.

May listening to this robin singing help make you smile, and give you hope that winter’s grip on your environment  or mind will ease soon. 🙂

How have you experienced nature’s calming or healing effects? Do share in the comments below... ❤

nature - robin on a fence - Let’s keep signs of spring quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com