Sky is Food


Recently, I ran across a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, something like “sky nourishes the soul.” It struck me because that’s true for me, and I began to muse about how each of us seems to relate deeply to a particular aspect of nature.

A dear friend simply mustget to a beach periodically. Something in her feels starved without that nourishment. Some folks feel that way about any body of water. My brother loves mountains like that and fortunately, he lives where the Rockies are easily accessible. For others, it’s trees or the deep quiet of new snow.

Once I had the opportunity to go along on a freighter making its usual run up and down the west coast. I sat for hours on the west side of the ship, where nothing was visible but sea and sky. The crew thought I was nuts—they wanted to watch the coastline. But I drank the sky like the richest imaginable beverage.

So it’s natural, perhaps, that I watch the changes and special events, the rhythms, in the sky. I once met a woman who said she’d never seen the moon rise over the eastern horizon. I was astounded—how could anyone not care about moonrise, I wondered. With a few friends, I watch for lunar phases and colors, the courses of the planets. Even in the city, where lights diminish most of the sky’s splendor, whenever I go outside at night, I look first to the sky. Not because it’s fascinating (which it also is), but because it’s food for my soul.

That response is simply natural to my inner being. The same is true for my friends who ache for water or feel awe in a forest.

We are tied to nature by something deep in our souls. And therefore we must  make opportunity to feed ourselves with whatever in nature brings our deepest nourishment. We don’t need to know why, but we do need to honor our longing for connection with that particular part of the world which nurtures us. To honor means not merely to glance at it, but to take time to be still in that presence, to allow it to broaden and deepen, to “chew” it thoroughly and accept its nourishment.

What’s your most nourishing spot in the world? How long has it been since you stood there, aware?


Of Beauty



This morning’s early walk took me to the rose garden in our largest city park. If it strikes you that Tucson might be a challenging place to raise roses, you’re right! This garden is well fenced, partly to protect it from javelina (peccaries), who like thorny, moist plants. Nothing, however, can protect the gorgeous blossoms when the sun gets too hot for them. Today I saw many, especially white ones, that were burned to crispy.

Even so, the fresh roses showed their colors beautifully. Roses, like many things, inspire me to ponder the miracle that we can perceive beauty at all—and how much we need it.

Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the royal wedding this past weekend. Yes, I’m one of the many who got up early to watch it.  I don’t care about titles and celebrity life. But I do like pageantry, be it medieval or modern. Why? I had to think about that. Why? Because I find in it beauty—beautiful flowers, beautiful fabrics, beautiful designs, beautiful people doing beautiful things, like a huge dance. The creation of beauty for beautiful reasons is, itself, a beautiful act.

Often when I look at the styles (or lack thereof) worn by some folks these days, I wonder: what ever happened to pretty? Or handsome? I find that in our society we are drawn to much that is eye-catching, much that is sexy, much that is rich-looking, much that is speedy. Does our society offer us enough beauty? Do we forget how much beauty contributes to the richness of our inner life? Bro. David Steindl-Rast says, “beauty seen makes the one who sees it more beautiful.” Isn’t it true? Doesn’t seeing something beautiful make us, somehow, more?

Rumi writes, “Let the beauty you love be what you do.” How many of us make an effort to do ordinary things in beautiful ways? Do we set a lovely table for a meal or do we eat in front of the TV? Do we tend our homes with the creating of beauty in our hearts? Do we make our myriad choices with beauty in our intentions?

I’m with Rumi. I want the soul to be as rich in beauty as possible, for beauty is Divine. I want to experience beauty in my own actions. How about you?



I live in a city, Tucson, in its more-or-less central district. My home is across the street from a huge hospital set on a busy four-lane highway. It’s not far from an intersection.

I’m telling you this because I’d like to you feel the traffic noise, the helicopter roar, the general noise of such a place. Because it was exactly in this place that something particular occurred. It has fed me for many days.

It was early in the morning. The spring sun was warm. As I walked through an empty parking lot for the large medical complex, cars passed me often. Swish. Swoosh. And in the background, the avenue full of early commuters.

Then, somehow, through all the city clatter, I heard a bird. I stopped. Time seemed to stop. I barely noticed an occasional car going past a few feet from me. The bird, I soon realized, was a mockingbird with an astounding repertoire. Mockingbirds like to concertize from the tops of things, so I looked at the tops of the streetlamps, the tops of the palm trees, a few wires and roof peaks. I couldn’t see him. I never did find him with my eyes.

But hearing him, listening to him, was fresh-spring food for my soul. I found him with my ears. I found him with my heart. I don’t know how long I stood there. They sometimes sing for hours. When I was full and sated, I went on with the loop I like to walk.

Now you might say, it was only a bird song. Yes. A bird song plus a particular quality of attention. It was drawn from my heart by the song’s beauty and its unexpectedness. So engaged was my soul with the invisible singer that I no longer heard the traffic or noticed whether a car passed close. I forgot the sun on my skin and breeze in my hair. I was totally present to one thing only.

That is the whole point, isn’t it? The song caught my deepest, loving soul-attention. My soul was fed at least as much by my attention as by the singing. Which suggests that I could be nurtured a lot more, and be less dependent on stimulus (even beautiful stimulus) if I were qualitatively more attentive. Enchanting. I will practice. Will you join me?