To a child, a rainy day holds its own majestic intrigue with boundless possibilities and adventure whereas as with us, it simply means we must grab an umbrella before scooting out the door to face the pettiness of forced human interaction. And my writing of such a condition reflects nothing more than the realities of jadedness and isolation that aged humans feel when they wake up and see rain. It wasn't always this way though. Rain meant a day of indoor adventure or perhaps a stop by the newspaper pile to craft a makeshift boat on the way to the flooded creek. It meant that your baseball game was cancelled and, instead, you can spend the day as you wished. It meant many things then, but now it's nothing more than a frustrating weather pattern.
Now is the winter of MY discontent.This morning, however, I didn't wake up and see rain. I woke up and saw a wonderfully damp sunny morning. My normal wake up time is 5:00am, so even on the weekends, I have trouble breaking this routine. I was up by 6:20am. I laid there in my bed smiling. Today is the last Sunday of my Catholic experience and my last chance to attend mass. I wasn't happy because of that. In fact, I'm a little sad, but for some reason I was still smiling.
The morning sun had managed to sneak into our room and, on the wall, it projected cascading and playful patterns of leaves dancing in the gentle morning breeze. They slowly moved up and down the corner of the room; following no pattern or routine, but still as dependable as any alarm clock or timer could ever be. For hours I could have laid there; next to my sleeping wife and watching that march of life, but the allure of a new day got the best of me and I stood up to face it.
And just like humans, my dog has his own routine as well. First, he must unwedge himself from the depth of the blankets and pillows that he had forged for himself over the course of the night. Then, he slowly moves to the foot of the bed where he sits for a moment to collect himself and perhaps even lick a few choice locations. After he's satisfied, he'll jump off the bed and prance into the living room where I will happily greet him with food, hugs and maybe a quick game of 1:1 with an old sock.
Since it was still early, I figured that a solid walk would be in order. I harnessed him up and we headed out. My neighborhood here in Seoul is threaded with eateries, cafes, bars and hofs. Many are open 24 hours a day and they get their use for sure. Far too many mornings during my Korean sojourn I've been faced with the cheers and drunk parades of college students stumbling out to face their soju stupors on the cold streets of this megalopolis; their smiles crooked from booze, but gleaming with satisfaction. I can relate to those kids. I was once as willfully detached at they are now and the beauty and vibrancy of that life will always stay with me as I inch towards my next.
Bear and I made our way up the winding roads. He was galloping at his normal pace and I was doing my best to manage his safety. Aside from the late-night drifters scattered around the city benches and sidewalks, mornings in Seoul are surprisingly tranquil. Sunday mornings are even more that way. We reached the top of the hill and were greeted with a clear view of my usually-bustling neighborhood. A gust of wind breathed across my face. It was clean and fresh, but in that gust was a scent. It's that scent that triggered this post.
If you recall last month, I showed you this image and asked, "do I see Buddha when I look at this picture?"
I couldn't answer that question because I was conflicted with the Buddhist concept that "the world is a burning house" due to the prevalence of human suffering. I acknowledged the world's beauty and how much I have been influenced by it but still couldn't see or feel Buddha when I looked at this picture. Perhaps that's a foolish thing to seek out, but the imagery of God, gods and deities within the natural world is nothing new.
This month, I'd like to show you another image. Last time, I just showed you any old image that looked godly. It was not inspired by anything expect a Google search and a mouse-click. This month is different. Standing on top of that hill with the cool breeze wrapping around me and my dog, a scent struck me. The smell of morning dew.
Can you imagine a better smell in the world? It's the symbol is a new day; a fresh start. And although we can experience it all year round, it's most easily witnessed in the summer --the time when children experience the true bliss of life and adults escape the grips of domestic isolation and ecological alienation. It's pure and just as it quick as it appears, it's gone. To me, the beauty of God's work can be seen in dew. It's there for us all, but if you don't take the time to seek it out, you'll miss it.
I sat there for a moment, closed my eyes and smiled. I wasn't trying to smile, though. I just couldn't help myself. The emotion of the moment was stronger than I expected and no matter how much I tried to ignore it, I couldn't. Feeling your heart smiling at you is quite an experience. I started walking again along the tree-lined road. Each step was met with wondrous, yet simplistic beauty. The wind pushed its way through the trees and continually peppered my dog and I with the angelic scent of the earth's most sacred aroma. We reached the end of the road and had to turn around. Slowly, we walked back home. We were given a great gift this day.
We might be up and we might be down in our own lives, but the cycle of the world will continue. Just like when you're camping. The morning dew might get your tent soaked and wake you up a little earlier, but soon enough the sun will rise and the dew will dry. It's happened for billions of years and could happen for billions more. There is a presence in the world that doesn't stop for the trivial problems we create for ourselves. It's not hard to find beauty in the world, either. I found it in a city swollen with the meaningless problems of millions of my endlessly troubled fellow humans. And yet, this is not a unique experience, nor is it one that we have all not come across thousands of times.
Go outside in the early morning and just sit in the majestic silence of the world. Maybe there's a special tree or field near your home. If not, just sit on your back-porch and listen to the world. Even if there's no sound, you can hear it. Assign a designer or creator if you want, but the aim should not be dividing the beauty you're witnessing. Rather, you should embrace it. Call it by name if you so desire, but love it nonetheless.
I could have told you this story on any number of morning walks, but I chose to share it with you on my last day of Catholic mass for a reason. You can find the grace and elegance of God or the world in many places. Perhaps it's in church or maybe it's on the still lake in the Adirondacks where I proposed to my wife.
Today, I found it on a quiet hill in Seoul, South Korea.