This Chronicler was suffering from an extreme case of writer’s block, so I asked Adele and Jackie K. if they had any thoughts on a topic for this week’s Chronicle. After a few minutes, Adele blurted out, “There were raspberries this week!” Those flavorful gifts are a result of our unusually warm, frost-free September, but still a pleasant surprise.
My mind immediately went to an intercession we pray regularly when we gather for morning prayer: “Our God is a God of surprises; for the ability to recognize mystery and wonder in our lives, we pray.”
So we started talking about surprises. Jackie K. told a story of JustBob working in the Solanus Center earlier this week. He looked up from his work to see three curious turkeys peering through one of the west windows, intently watching JustBob’s every move. Turkeys are normally very skittish and if they sense anyone moving near them, they scurry off quickly. Apparently the safety of a wall and a window separating them from JustBob’s activity was enough to alleviate their anxiety. JustBob said he has never experienced anything like that. I wonder if JustBob felt a bit like the roles were reversed. He is usually the one sitting in his observatory watching the wildlife though a window; this time he was the one being observed.
Then there was the little fellow sitting on the front steps one day when several of us went out front to check in guests as they arrived. I’m sure Brother Toad had the best of intentions to help us welcome our guests, but we moved him along to the gardens anyway just so he would be safe.
On a recent walk through the woods, my eye happened to catch a small brown cluster nestled between two tree branches. It was right at eye level and still I almost walked past it. It was a perfectly-crafted bird nest. Apparently, it had served its purpose to nurture some fledgling birds and was now abandoned. The birds that called it home must have been very small: the nest was barely two inches in diameter, and it was built on a tender, young branch that could not have supported much weight. The most surprising thing was that a mother bird would choose to build her nest in a place that was so vulnerable to human contact.
Each day holds many surprises: an eagle soaring overhead; a bat speeding toward you in a dark hall (not all surprises are welcome or pleasant, after all); a monarch butterfly flitting from flower to flower; the unexpected discovery of a particularly colorful fall leaf; a heart-shaped stone in a brook or on the beach; the smile on the face of a person you meet. The key is how many surprises do we notice because we are present in the moment, and how many surprises do we miss because we are too busy to notice. Yet, the ability to be present, to recognize mystery and wonder, is itself a grace from God that we need only to open ourselves to receiving.
Indeed, our God is a God of surprises. For the ability to recognize mystery and wonder in our lives, we say Deo Gratias!