Archive for Thursday, February 10, 2005

Lent a challenge to search for the sacred

February 10, 2005

I am experiencing my second or maybe third brain freeze since beginning this column. To accompany this freeze, we had a rainy day on Super Bowl Sunday. The game was a good distraction from the weather; however, it will also kept the kids indoors while Dad was trying to watch the game as well as the goings on that usually accompany it.
I understood the commercials were to be sanitized this year using cartoon characters and the Muppets in an effort to counteract last year's spectacle of Janet Jackson's unveiling. Let's hope Miss Piggy is not up to her usual tricks, which can sometimes be a bit racy. Speaking of controversy, what about Sponge Bob SquarePants? Oh no, I won't go there. That is another column for another time.
So again, I've mentioned the weather. Reading Paul's Thevarajoo's column this past week in The Eudora News made me chuckle. He wrote a column about how Kansans are obsessed with the weather only to end up writing an entire column about the weather and the effect it had on him in his early days in the country. So Paul, welcome to the club. You'll notice that the longer you live here, the more you will understand our weather obsession.
I am reminded of the movie with Steve Martin some years ago. He was a weatherman in California and had to resort to all sorts of hokey jokes and tricks to keep his audience entertained in balmy California.
I remember visiting there once and nearly freezing to death when everyone else was running around in T-shirts and shorts. I was glad to get back home where you know when it's really hot and really cold.
Several weeks ago as I was traveling to mass at about 7:15 a.m., I was surprised to see the moon hanging like a huge silver Christmas ornament in the western sky. Two mornings in a row it appeared, and on the third morning it was gone. I don't ever remember seeing it at such an unusual time and in such a glorious way. It looked close enough to touch. Soon after that the fog rolled in, and I found myself driving through waves of foggy mist in the early morning.
I have always been very much afraid of the fog and would do most anything to avoid it. I remember following a red sports car home from Lawrence one foggy night determined to keep it in my sights -- no matter that the driver was evidently suicidal, driving about 70 or 75 mph. Risking my life seemed to be less important than driving in the fog by myself. That little red car led me to the Eudora exit where I drew a deep breath and rejoiced at once again being on familiar ground. After that I decided I would only venture out in daytime fog, which still makes me jumpy.
A few years ago, I was visiting a monastery in Marysville, Mo., on a retreat with friends. Recently while sorting through a pile of old papers, I found a poem I wrote about the fog. Now, one thing about writing this column is that it gives you license to embarrass yourself, but I confess I don't have the courage to print that poem -- much to your relief and my writer's intuition -- that tells me it's one of those offerings that is best kept to oneself.
Shifting the focus, the subject of Ash Wednesday comes into my thoughts. This Wednesday found us once again beginning the 40 days of Lent which Christians observe each year as a time of reflection before Easter.
Quoting from The Forest Letter that arrives each month from Shantivanam, a retreat house near Atchison, "Easter comes so early this year our souls miss the quiet ordinary time between the end of the holiday season and the embracing of the Lenten journey."
In a recent copy of the Lawrence Journal-World, there was a photographic display of an artist by the name of Edward C. Robison III. Summarizing his work he quotes Abraham Maslow as saying, "The great lesson is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is found in one's daily life, in one's neighbor's, friends, and family, in one's back yard."
As a landscape artist, he moved to Colorado to photograph what he thought would be "exciting places," but returned shortly to Kansas, photographing our many changing scenes because as he said he had "fallen in love with the simplicity of the Kansas landscape."
What does this have to do with Lent and Ash Wednesday? Just as this artist sees beauty and sacredness in the ordinary, the challenge for us is to stop, look and listen during these next 40 days. To notice the beauty of the ordinary "sacredness" all around us -- in the gooey smile of a small baby as you lock eyes; in the delight of biting into a piece of chocolate; teaching a child to tie his shoes or doing a puzzle with a grandchild; listening to music that recalls a pleasant or inspiring memory; turning off the news on the car radio to really look at the landscape while driving to work; or enjoying a doughnut and some good conversation with a friend. All of these ordinary moments make up our daily lives and are sacred because the ground on which we stand is sacred.
Enjoy this ordinary time during Lent when not much is happening and we continue to have gray skies. There is always the chance of yet another February snowstorm to liven things up.
And there it is again -- the weather.

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