“All the Way to Heaven Is Heaven.”

This written article is a re-publication of a previous episode.  It was originally posted as a video in April of 2020.  Feel free to either watch that video again, or to read this over a cup of coffee.  I am re-publishing it because its content captures this season, and because this week, I took the opportunity to get my gardens ready for summer!  Thanks for tuning in!  See you next week!

When I was a kid, I was convinced that my mom had a snack food rating scale, “1” to “10.”  The lowest end of the scale was reserved for those things that only my dad could eat:  pickled stuff from my rural relatives, as well as canned fish like sardines or anchovies.  At the top end of the scale was anything produced by Hostess—Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Suzie Q’s.  Now I was raised in the 60’s.  I was around for Nabisco’s snack food breakthrough—the glory, the wonder of the Pop Tart!  This innovation required me to add an “11” to my scale to capture its majesty.

The problem with Pop tarts for a family of seven kids was the fact that only six Pop-Tarts were contained in each box.  Have you ever watched the scene unfold at a beach where a four-year-old decided to throw a Cheeto (rating: “8”) to a single seagull?  If you have, then you know that it doesn’t take long for an Alfred Hitchcock movie to break out when a hundred of that seagull’s best friends arrive with beaks and claws, and squawks to terrorize that toddler and her traumatized parents.  This is what happened each time my mom would arrive home with a box of Pop Tarts.  Before the paper grocery bag could even hit the kitchen counter, my mom’s seven seagulls would swoop in with beaks and claws, and inevitably, one of her seven seagulls would be left squawking.  Now my mom is not a stupid woman.  It didn’t take long before she came to the realization that she could avoid this kitchen carnage by leaving Pop Tarts off of her grocery list.  Which leads me to the story I wanted to tell you.

Like I said, I was born in the Sixties, a time when kids were still raised free-range-style.  In those days, a twelve-year-old could take off on a rural bike ride for an afternoon so long as he was home for dinner.  On the particular day I’m talking about, that’s exactly what happened.  After a sticky summer’s afternoon ride, I returned to an empty house.  Parched and hungry, I poured a tall glass of ice-cold milk, and came to the snack food cupboard only to discover that it was empty!  Not even a single Space Food Stick remained (rating: 4).  I stood for a moment, disappointed.  Then, it occurred to me to stand on my tippy toes, lift my hand as high as I could, and blindly search the top shelf.  “What is this that my hand is grazing?”  I breathlessly continued.  “A foil pouch?”  My heart began to pound.  “How can this be?”  Now I know that Thomas Aquinas created the Five Proofs for God’s Existence.  But in my unworthy, trembling hands, I held the sixth proof.  And it was covered in icing.  And it had those magical little colored sprinkles on it.  Miraculously, the seagulls had left this manna for me. 

I did what any twelve year old would have done in that moment.  I took my Pop Tart, and raced back to my bedroom.  I closed, and locked the door.  I sat on the floor cross-legged.  I broke off one…small…piece…at…a…time… and laid them reverently on my tongue…and there was that pastry wrapped around that jelly…with the slick icing…and bumpy sweet sprinkles.  I’m not even sure I used my teeth.  Did it take hours, or minutes?  Who can say!   I savored every last morsel of it.

I am convinced that we come into the world knowing exactly what to do in those moments.  Have you ever watched a three-year-old discover a butterfly’s wing laying on the side walk?  Watch what she does.  She drops everything she was doing, and drops herself to the ground as well.  She picks up that butterfly’s wing.  She flaps it.  She might flap her own wings?  She might rub it against her cheek.  She might taste it.  The whole world becomes that butterfly’s wing!  Nobody has to teach that child to Stop!  Drop!  And Savor!  It is her birthright.  That capacity is knit into her being. 

But somewhere along the way, we lose sight of that capacity.  Today, I promise you, there will be a seven-year-old who is going to step out of a room, full of toys, books, and electronics, and announce to the world, “I’m bored!”  Somewhere in this country this past week, someone drove by an amazing sunrise without noticing it because they were caught up in that voice in their head engaged with what should have happened and didn’t, or what they hope will happen, or the thing that they should have said, or will say, or shouldn’t have had to put up with.  All the while, sunrises, and sunsets, and stunning Redbud and Magnolia trees passed them by.  Somewhere along the way we forget our birthright, our inborn capacity to:  Stop! Drop! and Savor!

This Easter/Passover/Ramadan Season is a good time to intentionally re-appropriate our most innate capacity—that inborn ability to savor the particularity of this world’s beauty and grace.  I choose the word, “savoring,” because I fear that the more commonly used, “gratitude,” is suggestive of a more superficial intellectual exercise—kind of like Bing Crosby in White Christmas, “Counting [his] Blessings” to fall asleep.  To “savor” is to bring the body into the experience of gratitude.  Being grateful for a trip to Florida a month ago, is superficial compared to closing your eyes, stepping back onto the beach, breathing in the salt air, hearing the surf lap the shore, taking in the sound of the seabirds, and the children, seeing the sunrise paint the sky, most importantly, becoming aware, not so much of your thoughts, but of the bodily feelings that come with savoring (e.g. that expansive warm feeling in your chest, the butterfly feeling in your stomach, that adventure-ish feeling you get in your legs like you want to move, the smile spreading out on your face). 

This week, can you carve out a just few minutes of solitude and return to an experience of warmth, well-being, or joy, and simply step back into it with all of your senses and savor every part of it with a smile?  During this sacred season, nature herself seems to be inviting you and me to return to our original girl and boy graces, and pick up our forgotten capacity to experience heaven on earth—to Stop! Drop! and Savor!  P

P.S. Speaking of savoring and heaven… I am savoring the life of my friend Gary Schell who passed away this week.  Everything Gary touched he changed for the better, including me.  I thought I would reference John Prine’s song, “When I get to Heaven” because it reminds me of Gary’s mix of poetic mysticism and his Jerseyville, Illinois appreciation of down-to-earth humor.  Until we meet again Gary, I savor you.   

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