Monthly Archives: February 2016

“May We Learn to Love”

Gray Day

Perceptive Prayer

by Grace Bauer

The beauty of summer nights
is how they go on—
light lingering so long we can
imagine ourselves immortal.
For moments at a time.

And winter days—
their own kind of beauty.
Any swatch of color:
hint of leaf bud, sway
of dried brown grass, even litter—

a bright yellow bag
light enough for the breeze
to lift and carry,
can render itself as pleasure
to an eye immersed in gray.

May we learn to love
what is both
ordinary and extra.
May our attention be
a kind of praise.
A worship of the all
there really is.

from Nowhere All at Once
Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2014

When my own eyes are “immersed in gray,” and I can’t see past what I perceive as insufficient, inconvenient and unacceptable, a poisonous resentment seeps in. Especially in the nearly colorless depths of winter, with snowbanks stained black and puddles of slush everywhere we step, it can be hard to feel grateful for the moments of plainer grace that are often all we have in life. We forget that even a piece of litter, a “yellow bag” the color of summer sun, can take on a quiet beauty, and bring us back to a present moment we have been rejecting, without even knowing it. Grace Bauer is a master of capturing the truth of human experience, often with a blend of humor and reverence. This poem reminds me of what poet and philosopher Mark Nepo says in The Book of Awakening: “As much as we want to be seen and known, it is the giving of attention that keeps us awake.” “Perceptive Prayer” shows us that how we perceive the world—how we choose to let it in—is much more important to our well-being than what we actually see. We are accustomed to celebrating what is “extra,” those moments of achievement, exotic vacations, and larger life events, but perhaps it is more transformative to make it our daily practice not just to praise the so-called ordinary, but also to worship it as “the all/there really is.”

—James Crews