It was a quiet afternoon for me. No pressing appointments, errands or work to be done. I kept a promise to myself – that I would sit in different places in my home than in the usual ones, peer through windows facing other views, do things at atypical times. So I sat in the spare bedroom and began to read In Praise of Wasting Time by the brilliant Alan Lightman.
It was hard to get started, though, because I was distracted by a compelling bloom on a stunningly beautiful orchid sitting on the table next to me.
I have been tending this orchid, and three others, for at least a year and a half. I know because three of the four were given to me when my husband died. This is one of those three, and while I’m pretty terrible with dates and the passage of time, I got this one for sure. A few months ago, two of the orchids each pushed out a strong shoot. I watched patiently until each shoot becoming a stem was tall enough to need bracing, which I did, and I continued to wait. Every day, I’d turn the plants a quarter-turn, as the shoots grew taller and thicker and finally buds appeared. And then one of them opened.
I stare and stare at this remarkable flower, counting the petals (six), examining their structure, marveling at the purple and white pattern, and noticing it on the outer casing of the multiple remaining unopen buds. I contemplate that we are of the same planet, the same nature. It is so distracting and so beautiful that I find myself mesmerized savoring whatever we have in common – the urge to express one’s nature, to live one’s lifecycles in the best way possible, to leave behind something of oneself for a next generation.
Such time spent is a saving grace. Whether you are smitten by the beautiful orchid or paying attention to the welcome cleansing texture of a rough cloth on your face in the hot shower, or hungrily inhaling the aroma of homemade soup, paying attention is the easiest gift you can give – and receive from – yourself. When you recognize these grace notes, stop. Take a moment or two, or more. Give thanks. Say grace. Savor grace. See the saving grace in our commonality, our common experience, our common recognition of the gifts we have been given.
I'm pretty sure Alan Lightman would approve.