Last week for three days in a row a great horned owl roosted in our back yard. He came early every morning, departed in the evening, and returned the next day. He sat perched not far from our house blending in to the gary oaks among which he sat peering out at the world all day.
On Friday he was ten metres from our kitchen porch, close enough for his wide round eyes to be clearly visible from the window over the sink.
My wife, who appreciates the majestic visitations of the natural world more than anyone I know, suggested we avoid scaring away this beautiful creature by coming and going through the basement for the day.
But Friday is an early morning running day. And I was already late. The bird had been in our back yard for three days. It had not yet been frightened off by the comings and goings of our household. And I knew that later in the day we would be having company, so trekking through the basement to gain access to the house did not really seems a sensible option.
As a concession, I abandoned my usual kitchen door exit and opened the side door, at the far end of the house from the kitchen, but still visible to our owl visitor.
The moment I stepped out the door, he spread his wings, lifted from his perch and glided silently away. He has not returned.
As I set out on my run, a small voice in my head kept turning over the question, “How often do you chase away the beauty?”
How many times in a day does my compulsion to get the job done cause me to banish the luminous presence in my own back yard? How often, as I rush to tick off the next important item on my to-do list, do I miss receiving the gift of beauty that has the power to nurture my spirit?
What is it that makes me so impatient with the slower pace that is necessary to open fully to the glory that permeates every moment of the day? How much do I miss in my constant rush to utilize my time efficiently and productively? What need am I trying to satisfy by pushing past those transcendent moments of glory without even noticing?
It requires gentleness and patience to open to the sustaining grace that fills the world. I need to slow down, breathe deeply, and allow the soft imprint of life to enter my being.
But, most of all, I need to believe in the deep value of simply seeing. I need to trust that, life is not primarily about getting from here to there by the shortest, most efficient, and cost effective route. Life is about entering into the fullness of the glory. We are not made more human by doing more and accumulating greater achievements. We are made more human by opening to life, by stopping and experiencing the fullness of reality as it presents itself to our senses.
The more I rush through life, the more I exist on the surface. The less I am engaged with the realities around me, the more my life is shallow and parched. It is no wonder I find myself running on empty when I refuse to be fed by the grace that life so often offers.
Stopping to embrace life more fully, may not enable me to get more things done. But it may make it possible for me less often to chase away the beauty that has the power to sustain me for the journey of the rest of my life.