As a gift to myself, I sat, for almost two hours, at a picnic table on Mt. Tabor, doing nothing. Douglas fir trees encircled me; dappled shade fell on the path and the field where small, white daisies bloomed amid the grass. The air was soft and warm, smelling of trees, and the lilt of birdsong spread across the canopy. I watched in awe, relished the breeze on my skin, and listened with gratitude.

Because I sat still, birds came close. I could see the flick of color around the robin’s eye and the grey shading on the junco’s neck.

“Click, click,” said the junco, and flew off, but the robins stayed, pulling up worms, losing worms, grabbing grubs. Watching them, I realized with awe that the birds ate an enormous amount compared to the size of their bodies.

Noise and silence; peace and activity. So long since I have simply observed or allowed the earth to hold me and the air to surround me.

I had forgotten how holy is the world; how sacred is life. Almost as if God were present.

I was reminded of the people who walked past the famous Joshua Bell as he played his concert violin on a cold, Friday in January, 2007, in a Washington, DC, subway station (see Would I have heard the heart-wrenching beauty of the notes and stopped to listen? Or would I have hurried past, on my way to someplace important? And if I had stopped to witness the miracle of sound and sight, would I have been changed?

How often do I stop to be part of the fragile beauty of music or of the earth? As a people, what would it be like if we took the time to hold our planet with respect, kindness, and care? How would we be changed? How would this affect our ability to be part of life, to accept the ups and downs of the day, to not only stay sober, but stay present, vulnerable, open? I suspect by holding still, we would receive a gift of transformation.
Transformation is the opposite of perfection. I know that when I make mistakes, when I miss something or lose my temper, I feel shame and guilt. How much more so those newly sober addicts I work with. Their shame is so acute, they cling to perfection as if it could save them. If they did everything right, were completely right, said only the right thing, then they would finally be loved.

This strategy has many problems, of course, not the least being that perfection is impossible. So we are constantly disappointed. Besides, if we were perfect, we would be dead.

I don’t mean dead as in our bodies buried and our souls, if we have them, spirited into another realm where all our blemishes would be healed and our thoughts pure.

I mean dead in spirit. Because life and liveliness require change.

Sit where you are and pay attention. Notice your breath, feel your clothes pressing against your skin, listen to the hum of electric motors or the call of the crow. None of these experiences stay the same for very long. Each moment is transformed into something new and different from the last. That is life.

If we were perfect – if anything were perfect – there would be nothing to change. Perfection is completely still and static. No mistakes, true, but no growth, no laughter, no transformation. No life. And thus no love. The love we seek by trying to always do it right, eludes us still.

So if we long for growth, because growth is fun in its way, and growth is where love actually finds us, then we must accept we don’t always get it right. How easy it can be to forgive someone else’s transgressions, yet expect more of ourselves. Certainly I have room for great and boundless transformation. Watching the sun spread shadows beneath the kiwi vine, or sparkle on the pink roses that swarm over our rambler, and then notice the sun has slipped behind some clouds and left the world shadowless.

Nature never stays the same. We never stay the same. And we can thank all we hold sacred that we are not perfect, after all. Nor is nature.

But maybe together we can become a little closer to perfection by watching and listening and treating the world around us with grace and affection, at least as often as we can.

In faith and fondness,