Monday, August 15, 2011

The discipline of paying attention

Luci Shaw's musings on paying attention are wise. They urge us to live through senses exquisitely attuned to wonder and the sacramental. She says:

"I want to start where I am and use what I have and in the writing the mundane and the trivial may show themselves to be of greater significance. All of the ordinary givens are fodder for my faith.... God speaks from the loaves of bread, mu granddaughter's water-colour of a rainbow, the buzz of a housefly....These graces often begin with moments of attention and surprise" - Luci Shaw in Breath for the Bones, Kindle Location 1676.

For me, following in Ann Voskamp's train and keeping a gratitude journal has, for the past year, helped me to do this. Then last week a comment on someone's post about Breath opened a little wider the door to fulfilling this discipline. She said something like: "Stop in the middle of what you're doing and ask, What is holy about this moment?" (Sorry if I butchered the quote; I looked for it again but now can't find it.) I love that—for I'm still far too easily distracted from seeing the sacred in everyday things and need all the help I can get.

Another help is the inspiration of reading the writing of people who actually pay attention. Besides Luci's own vivid examples, I think of what I recently read in one of Wendell Berry's essays.

"Perhaps it is to prepare to hear someday the music of the spheres that I am always turning my ears to the music of streams. There is indeed a music in streams, but it is not for the hurried. It has to be loitered by and imagined. Or imagined toward, for it is hardly for men at all. Nature has a patient ear. To her the slowest funeral march sounds like a jig. She is satisfied to have the notes drawn out to the lengths of days or weeks or months. Small variations are acceptable to her, modulations as leisurely as the opening of a flower." - Wendell Berry in The Art of the Commonplace, page 19.

Isn't that gorgeous? I read that and say, being attuned is worth striving after. So I will continue to work at the discipline of paying attention — one that I've been working on for a while now. I wrote this in 2004-ish.


Besides the path that winds
through my waking and sleeping
grow like wildflowers
scenes, insights, connections
Some days I am too rushed
or distracted to see
On others I am wiser
live with the perception
that gathers a bouquet
chooses one or two to press
between the covers
of a book

© 2004 by Violet Nesdoly

This post is part of the discussion of Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit by Luci Shaw. Laura Boggess discusses Chapters 9 (Paying Attention) and 10 (Cultivating Creativity) here. At the bottom of the post you will find links to other posts about these chapters.


Patricia said...

Thank you for sharing that quote... beautiful!

Laura said...

I think you do a wonderful job of paying attention--that poem shows it! I love that quote from Luci that you open up with. For me, this is what writing does: helps me notice my life and God in it. I love Wendell Berry too! Just so much goodness in this post, Violet. So glad you are on this journey with us.