Sometimes it is therapeutic just to pause and take in a small portion of the beauty.
Who could fail to be stunned into silence by the wonder and mystery of creation?
But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being. (Job 12:7-10)
Thomas Merton experienced deeply the mystery and wonder of creation and the challenge of expressing that experience in any form:
The grass like green silk under the tree: and the sun and the silence and the wind moving in the branches and the heat pouring on the landscape: and I sit under the tree full of all this, not able to say anything myself about it, because it was all incomprehensible as soon as I tried to describe it as a possessed experience. An individual material reality is unintelligible: what I was trying to describe was not an experience, it was nothing comprehensible, the matter of an experience, raw matter. That you can describe so as to seem to describe it, but you are really describing another thing, an experience – not this moment itself, but your experience in it. (RTM, 412)
But Merton also understood how often we risk missing the beauty:
With my hair almost on end and the eyes of the soul wide open I am present, without knowing it at all, in this unspeakable Paradise, and I behold this secret, this wide open secret which is there for everyone, free, and no one pays any attention (“One to his farm, another to his merchandise” Luke 14:16-20). Not even monks, shut up under fluorescent lights and face to face with the big books and the black notes and with one another, perhaps no longer seeing or hearing anything in the course of festive Lauds. (TTW, 7)
With amazing prescience Merton saw the risks to technology becoming a barrier between human beings and the beauty:
It is a terrible thing to ride encased in the glass, sterile, train asking the hills who they are, and being cut off from any real answer in a sealed tube of scientifically cleaned and heated air, not the same air as fills the bitter, hostile woods outside. When hills go to answer, they are defeated; so is the questioner. The answer can’t get through the glass. (RTM, 282)
In order to see the beauty, we may need to follow Merton and learn the gentle art of slowing down and just doing nothing:
I confess that I am sitting under a pine tree doing absolutely nothing. I have done nothing for one hour and firmly intend to continue to do nothing for an indefinite period. I have taken my shoes off. I confess that I have been listening to a mockingbird. Yes, I admit that it is a mockingbird. I hear him singing in those cedars, and I am very sorry. It is probably my fault. He is singing again. This kind of thing goes on all the time. Wherever I am, I find myself the centre of reactionary plots like this one. (Reader, 117)
Here in this place of doing nothing, our heart may open and we may discover that the beauty points beyond itself to the transcendent realm of love commonly identified using the word “God”:
It is God’s love that warms me in the sun and God’s love that sends the cold rain. It is God’s love that feeds me in the bread I eat… It is God’s love that speaks to me in the birds and streams. (NSC, 16, 17)
…and the pufferfish.