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November 21, 2013

Revealing the Invisible Knitting of Details

I can't explain these occurrences, but they are mysterious and comforting. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner wrote in Honey from the Rock that nothing is too small to be a "sign." That sentence led me many years ago to initiate noticing as part of my daily spiritual practice. Simply notice. Observe how small things knit together into a meaningful whole.

Five years before my father died, he planted a maple sapling from Walden Pond on the local university campus. It died, the Texas heat being too much for it that year. Not to be deterred, he ordered another one and planted the new tree in the former's place. When my father died in 2006, the tree was still young and faced another dreaded, droughtful summer. A young professor and colleague of my father's pledged that he would hand water the tree every summer to be sure that this one survived.

I was coordinating a video session for a client yesterday. We were taking footage of a lovely home interior, the kind that embraces you when you walk in and yet gives you space in every sense of the word. Hours before we set up the cameras at this charming home, the crew and I had driven by this very maple tree, now two stories tall, swaying elegantly in the autumn breeze.

Speaking with the homeowner as the camera men set up, I learned that her husband was the tree-watering colleague. My father was his mentor, played an important role in the man's teaching career, and given my father's former career as a minister, he performed this couple's wedding ceremony. I also learned that Professor G. dedicated an annual conference last year to my father, who once played a central role in this statewide organization. Mrs. G. and I began trading memories, beautiful ones, first of my family, and then of hers. As we talked, a young man participating in the video joined our conversation and said, "This is interesting! I'm reading Walden right now myself." Young Mr. W. is a banker, not a college student assigned to read Walden. He and I had a great conversation about Thoreau. Then Mrs. G reached into a high cabinet, brought out a tiny porcelain box and showed us acorns that she had kept from a trip to Walden Pond some years ago. Dr. G. came home soon after and contributed to the general exchange of memories of my dad. One of the cameramen had been a student of my dad's. His memories also folded into the mix.

I had no idea whose home we were going to for this video session until we arrived. These casual conversations and discoveries unfolded as a gentle surprise. I felt a unique warmth in me and around me, a blessed sense of connecting with people I had not known, but who now appear as artful details in my life's landscape. Moments like these are real gifts, laid as gently upon us as a butterfly settling on one's hand.