Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sometimes It's As Simple As Standing Up

This morning I woke up at 5:55 and knew I would not get back to sleep. At 6:05, I snuck down the stairs with a book I'm reading -- and obsessing over -- thinking I would flip the switch on the coffee-maker-that-changed-my-life, and read a quiet chapter and watch the sun rise. Unfortunately, I haven't changed completely, and had forgotten to set the coffee maker and had no ground beans. So I stood in front of my stove for a full minute trying to figure out how to get water hot to make tea (caffeine seemed important) without using the almost-as-loud-as-the-coffee-grinder microwave.

And then I realized that stoves are quiet, and they can heat water too. It was very early in the morning.

Five minutes later, with tea steeping in my yellow pot beside me, I sat on my back-door kitchen mat and read a chapter of Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The Chapter was called "The Thing About a Crossing," and was about how in a great story, whether in real life or in fiction, the most beautiful, memorable moments almost always come after a hard journey. Miller had just paddled across an inlet in the Northwestern ocean for several hours in pitch blackness, and just as he and his friends got to the shore, they discovered that bioluminescence was happening in the water beneath them.

It was four in the morning, but we were energized by the ocean. As we got closer to the other shore, there were a million fish swimming beneath our boats, each leaving a trail and the ocean was flashing from beneath us as though fireworks were going off in the water. "I've never seen it like this," one of our guides said. He said he'd seen the ocean glow when you splashed you paddle, but he'd never seen the fish light up the water from underneath. When we were a hundred yards from shore and paddling into the lagoon, the whole ocean glowed like a swimming pool. None of us wanted to get out of our boats. I paddled around in circles in the lagoon, watching the fish streak beneath me like a meteor shower.

Wow, I thought. I want an experience like that. I want beauty and awe and awesomeness in my life. This is what Miller's book is about: living a story with your life that is filled with memorable moments and meaning, and about how often we don't live those kinds of moments because we are just going through the motions trying to keep ourselves comfortable and secure.

I looked up at the sky at this point, and could see just a corner of pink in my field of vision. I wonder what it would look like if I stood up? I thought. But I was tucked in with a quilt and my hot tea and I didn't really feel like it. Then I realized I had just read about a guy who got to see bioluminescence at four in the morning because he was out kayaking and it was pretty pathetic that I wouldn't even stand up. So I did. And this picture above is what I saw. I took it with my crappy camera, so it was way more beautiful in real life.

I would have missed it if I was sitting on the ground, or worse, still in bed fretting over all the things I had to do today, the worry over which is what woke me in the first place. This moment was a little gift, a small reminder that beauty is here for the taking, and you don't always have to take a huge step to make a good memory. Sometimes it's as simple as just standing up.

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