There’s a short poem by William Stafford called “Any Morning,” about savoring a private moment away from the troubles of the world. Here’s an excerpt that really captures the gist of the piece:

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven

left lying around, can be picked up and saved.

People won’t even see that you have them,

they are so light and easy to hide.

“Any Morning” by William Stafford

At the end of the poem, Stafford suggests that head-shaking and frowning, like others do, can happen later in the day.

The past several months as the heat and humidity of summer has gradually given way to the cool and crispness of autumn, I’ve been reflecting on those “pieces of Heaven left lying around” that William Stafford writes about above. Specifically, I’ve found myself thinking about where I tend to come in contact with those often-fleeting moments and what I can do to find more of them.

As I think back over the course of this year, especially as we continue to feel the effects of the pandemic, those moments of goodness that Stafford points out seem few and far between. This is brought into sharp focus when I look at the larger structures and systems that govern our world these days: our health, our politics, our elected officials, our abilities to find compromise, our desire to do what’s best solely for ME and not what’s best for everyone, our insistence that our opinion is the only one that could be correct instead of trying to learn from everyone — even those with whom we disagree.

When the macro-level view of the world resembles more the last line of “Any Morning,” I turn to the micro, to the small-scale part of my world that I can more easily manage, where I feel I have a modicum of control over the outcome of things. On the personal scale, I can choose to find happiness. I choose to see the joy and good and beauty in the world around me. This isn’t to say that I am oblivious to the frowns or shaking of heads, but that I choose to not let those influence my outlook on my day, or let them have control over the moment in which I find myself. In the end, we have agency over how we choose to see ourselves in the world, the situation of the moment, and we have a choice to make about how we decide to engage with the world around us. Sometimes making that choice to see the good, to partake in the joy, to not allow myself to be mired down in the moment is challenging. More times than not, however, that attitude of choosing to see the good and find the joy in my life wins out.

The trick, it turns out, to living into those moments of joy and happiness, is to be on the lookout for them almost everywhere.

One of the things I love this time of year is to stargaze. The cooler temperatures cause less heat ripples in the atmosphere making it easier to see the pinpoints of light in the vastness of the sky. When one goes out to look at the stars, our eyes need time to adjust to the darkness around us. At first only the brightest stars can be seen, but as your eyes grow increasingly accustomed to lack of light, fainter stars become visible. Soon, even the colors of the stars and planets are recognizable. Seeing those “pieces of Heaven,” in our lives requires us to be both patient and vigilant in our search; our hearts and eyes and ears to be trained to be on the lookout for them to show up and reveal themselves to us.

The more you hunt for them, expect them to happen even, the more you will notice that they are all around you. The voice of a friend with whom you haven’t spoken for who knows how long, the smell of delicious food that instantly transports you back to a happy memory of a time long past, a song you hear which gets your feet tapping along to the rhythm, the touch of hands that you’ve held for hours. The list is as endless as the ticking seconds of our day.

How often we let the rush of our lives propel us past these gifts and off to the next important thing we have to accomplish or task that needs our attention. How often we let the loudest voice trumpet over the stillness that we long for in our day.

As Stafford writes, those times where all is right with the world, where the bustle of our lives is off elsewhere, seem to be found in the simplest of circumstances. Of course, that very fact perhaps aids in making them elusive. They are by their nature easy to hide and easily hidden, from others, and even from ourselves when we’ve let our lives speedily carry us along. And yet, those moments of joy and happiness, those moments of fulfillment and contentment are there for us to gather, to collect, to keep close and to treasure.

Reverend Matthew Hanisian is the Rector of St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal Church in Severna Park. He enjoys good food, painting watercolors and is a novice blacksmith. Email him at rector@stmartinsinthefield.org.

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