I stumbled out the door of a mountain cabin where I was spending the weekend working with youth and their families at a rustic resort center. I had a 6:30 AM appointment to keep and squinted from the early autumn sun peeking over pine-blanketed mountaintops.
I was started by a voice behind me. “Today is a miracle!” I turned to find one of the teenagers following behind.
“How?” I asked her. It looked like it might be pleasantly warm later in the day. Otherwise, fairly ordinary. The word “miracle” seemed like an overstatement. Anyway, I wasn’t sure if I could handle much excitement this early in the morning.
“Think about it,” she smiled. “The sun rose, didn’t it?”
“Yeah.” I found it easy to hide any enthusiasm. It seemed to rise on every other morning without my getting involved.
“That’s a miracle! It is miraculous that the earth turns as it does. At night, the sun goes down and in the morning it rises. It just happens!”
I pretty much already had this figured out. I rubbed sleep from my eyes. I was also busy thinking about how to get a cup of coffee.
“And look at the mountains! Covered with trees and grass, they look so beautiful. And there,” she pointed, “a valley. It’s incredible.”
Was she always this perky? And shouldn't there be a rule against perkiness this early in the morning? Especially before coffee?
“Did you notice the wildflowers?” she continued. “It all smells so fresh and clean and so good.” She took a deep breath and I thought I might have caught a sparkle in her eyes. Though it may have also been a trick of the light. “All of nature receives water and sunlight and everything it needs. Things grow and blossom – it really is lovely.”
Now I started to worry. I thought I was actually coming around. Well, a little bit, anyway. Is perkiness contagious? I felt something stirring inside. Up until then I thought this was just an ordinary morning in the mountains. I didn't know what spell she was secretly weaving, but she had a point. It really was beautiful, even if there was nothing magic about it.
Then, with a smile that gave her pronouncement a note of finality, she said, “And best of all, it will happen again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next!” Then she sighed. “See? It's a miracle morning.”
In her poem “Aurora Leigh,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries...
Along the early morning path, my friend had removed her shoes. For her, earth was “crammed with heaven” and “every bush afire.” It wasn't just perkiness; she had eyes to see what I had completely missed. I was, as Browning might say, sitting around plucking blackberries.
I haven't seen that young woman for many years. She's grown up now. Maybe she has a family of her own. She's no doubt seen a good measure of heartache and trouble – who hasn't? But I would be surprised if she isn't basically a happy and contented person. Why? Because she discovered a valuable secret about happiness – she learned to find wonder in commonplace things and to feel gratitude for the ordinary. And life is nothing if not filled with the commonplace and ordinary.
After all, if a single morning can hold so much wonder for her, then a lifetime of mornings, not to mention evenings and everything in between, should keep her going through whatever life throws her way.
-- Steve Goodier
Image by Michel Mayerle