Small Things, Simple Things, Nothings

What can anyone give you greater than now,
Starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
William Stafford, from “You, Reading This, Be Ready”

I dreamed last night I was sitting at K and E’s kitchen table, drinking tea and eating a slice of pear and stem ginger cake. It was cold and stormy out; the glass had steamed over. Dishes had been cleared away, leaving only a bowl of figs and a jug of cream on the table, candles sending wisps of smoke up to the ceiling. We listened to Adele and talked and laughed late into the night.

I woke to the rain tapping on my window, sunrise creeping over the mountains, morning fog resting thick over this valley, and the latent longing I carry with me through all my days rose to consciousness. This is the life I want to live—something small and simple, mundane and unremarkable. Here in the moments of dailyness, of nothingness, the beauty and the brightness come in.

I have written about this before, over four years ago now, when I was young and dramatic, navigating a strange, in-between season:

For a little while yesterday it felt like light was running through my veins and flowing from my fingertips, my heart about to scatter into pieces from trying to hold in too much happiness. There was a whistling tea kettle, and blue sky and sunlight peeking through eucalyptus branches, and a mistyness hung over the ocean. And all of it made me want to run—hard and fast and long, hair whipping in the wind—and dive into the ocean, taste salt, and let the waves carry me.

The days which are empty are so full; I lose time like an absent-minded child, moving slowly from wonder to wonder. I recount the events of this past week, and I have done nothing really, except perhaps practice the art of waiting well. It’s the small things that fill my hours, the unexpected, rediscovered things: lunch dates and coffee dates and dinner dates, long walks to the ocean, the smells and faces of roadside lavender and Mexican sage bush and jacaranda trees…and other things, nothings, forgettable but beautiful and surprising.

It’s true: the most beautiful moments are the ordinary ones, the ones hardly worth mentioning. In this glitzy, busy, techy valley, full of noise and distractions, it is these small things, the simple things, the nothings that hold meaning and bring rest.

Oh I never want to be so full and content that I miss the gift hidden in plain sight. So I practice the discipline of seeing and naming what is in front of me; I lean into holy dissatisfaction because I know there are greater–simpler–things in store. Daily I want to wake in this world with open hands, releasing the grace that carried me yesterday, receiving new grace for today. I want to move through my hours, thirsty and expectant, with senses sharp, yearning for that all-pervasive beauty and goodness that is here and is to come.

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