the window had been decorated

A few weeks ago we received a notice from the power company warning of a Monday morning power outage due to scheduled maintenance.  A short window was given from nine o’clock in the morning until about noon, during which time people in our neighborhood were encouraged to make plans to be elsewhere.  I received the notice with a frown at first, noting that Monday was my day off and I wouldn’t be able to get as much done while the power was out.  How would I answer e-mails, run the washing machine, and so on?  No sooner had I begun to ask these questions than a wave of excitement washed over me.

When the morning in question rolled around, I was prepared.  After the early routine of breakfast and school drop-off, I arrived at home, where I brewed a fresh pot of coffee before the power went out.  As the steam rose from the percolating machine, large utility trucks pulled up at the curb outside.  At nine o’clock on the nose, the lights went out, the digital clocks faded to black, and the house descended into a sublime silence.  I poured a fresh cup of coffee and walked into the living room where I sat on a quiet patch of carpet by the window.  There in the natural light I simply looked and listened.  I heard the wind stirring the branches, the whistle and chirp of birds in the back yard, and the sound of my own breathing.  I remembered the words of the old Zen monk, “Breathing in, I am home; breathing out, I have arrived.”

The morning without power was strangely restorative.  Rather than rushing around as I sometimes do on my day off, I accepted the invitation to do nothing for a couple of hours.  Well, at least on the surface of things I was doing nothing.  To look a bit deeper, I think, is to see that I was grounding myself in gratitude (counting my blessings, as they say).  In the hush of the morning, I considered all that was right in my life.  I thought of my dear family and how much joy they bring me; I thought of my friends and the ways our paths had crossed at different times in life; I thought of how much I still love my work after many years; I thought of the simple good fortune of having warm coffee, a soft rug, and a window to sit beside.

Since next week is a short week, I suspect this will be my last blog post before Thanksgiving.  I offer this story as a way of countering the great consumptive pressure of the holidays with the simple awareness of the gifts we already enjoy.  I invite you to share the things for which you give thanks.  And I invite you to share the practices that help you slow things down enough to see and hear what is already there.

With aloha,


*Thanks to Vassar Miller for this expression from her poem, “Resolve.”