It was one of those rare days when all creation seems suffused with light and beauty, and God’s presence is very near. I was driving to see my sister on a golden autumn afternoon. A clear mountain stream tumbled alongside the road as I wound my way up the pass, and the sun’s slanting rays sparkled on the water like laughter floating up from good conversation. Golden cottonwoods and poplars danced along the creek’s edge, flinging their leaves like confetti at a parade, aware of the generosity of their gift. The autumn sun created special effects for the trees as well – a golden filter of light, a halo of wonder. Further up the pass, the yellow tamaracks, unremarkable in other seasons, set the mountainside ablaze, a burning bush in which their green companions of fir and pine were not consumed but glorified. This superfluity of beauty drew me into an awareness of the abundance of God’s love and care, God’s desire to give us these golden moments of beauty and Divine Union without expectation of anything in return. In these moments, we are most fully mindful of our oneness with all of creation. Our longing for God is met by God’s longing for us, and we are filled to overflowing with love and gratitude.
Gratitude is often a difficult attitude to maintain. We get sidetracked by our everyday world, ruled by the clock and the to-do list. We rattle off a few thank you’s during our prayer time, if we have any, and call it good. But we are seldom mindful enough to be truly grateful. Gratitude requires being in the present moment. I became aware some time ago of a habit I had of going someplace beautiful for a vacation or retreat, taking scads of pictures and telling myself, “I have to come back here!” One of these times, God started breaking into my thought process and telling me, “You’re here now! Be present to it!” For by taking copious photos to look at later and prematurely planning my next trip, I was preventing myself from being fully present to the gift that was right in front of me. And so, on this golden day, I was able to receive the gift, to glory in it – no photos, no plans, just gratitude. As we approach Thanksgiving Day and our thoughts turn to the blessings of life, may God grace you with such an abundance of beauty and love that you are drawn fully into that moment and filled to overflowing with wonder and gratitude. May it be so.