Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?
As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.
Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?
To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.
~Zen master to his disciple
It was not what I had come to Florence to see. I came for golden eyed Botticellis; for Michelangelo's sculptures and Brunelleschi's Dome. It's not really the kind of thing you can plan. Serendipity. A gift.
We arrived at the Ponte Vecchio in early evening. The air was warm. And soft. Like water. Our hunger had been assuaged by marvelous Tuscan pasta, eaten in an ivy covered trattoria in the shadow of the Duomo. Most of the shops that line either side of the bridge were already closed, but the atmosphere thrummed with life. A band was playing pretty convincing Sting covers. Children laughed and played. And along the waters of the Arno....magic was in the making...
I couldn't not look at it. Every moment a different configuration of colors. A collision of blues and violets with flaming oranges. Excruciating in their intensity. Diffused somewhat along the ripples of the Arno. Carving silhouettes of building and bridge in ever more distinct relief.
No. The photographs do not properly portray it. But all I have to do is look at them and I am there. I smell the air. I hear the happy sounds. And I remember what it was to be held for a moment in the embrace of magnificence. To feel its transcendent glory throbbing all about me.
Much as I would love to replicate...to create...moments like these, that is out of my reach. What I CAN do is to cultivate my aptitude or capacity for seeing them when they happen. Because SOMETHING beautiful happens EVERY day. A few of the ways I have done that in my own life, and have endeavored to fan the flame in my children are to...
Live in Expectation. Assume, even on the craziest, most difficult day, that there will be something beautiful Something worthy. Something good. Make it your mission to find it.
Carry a Camera. Not all the time maybe. But I find I see things when I have a camera in my hand that I do not see otherwise. Expectation again, perhaps. But I think the camera triggers my "photographer's eye". I begin to notice little things that would make a great shot. I see how one thing plays against another. And ordinary things become epic.
Write it down. When I began blogging, I found myself looking for things to share here. This immediately made me more attentive. Then, I found that wrestling with words to wrap around an experience intensified it; made me see it more deeply. Even with books I read, I am sometimes thinking of how I will write about it. You do not want to publish? No worries. Begin your own personal journal of magic. Write it down. For you. Though, I promise, you will have to tell someone. :)
I am no Pollyanna. I am very aware that every day offers opportunities to worry, to be afraid, to grieve. I know this all too well. But, I also know I can choose which thoughts I allow to ruminate in my mind. I choose to look for the beautiful. Obstinately. Persistently. Sometimes desperately.
Every time I seek,