How infinitely rich

Photo by Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“I think these difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”Isak Dinesen

Perhaps the understanding Dinesen describes is one of the greatest gifts to come out of suffering.  Such a gift is a mixed blessing, and not simply because it grows out of pain. Our deepened awareness can make us impatient with others who are complacent, caught up in things we see as inconsequential– and it can make us doubly hard on ourselves when we find that we are likewise wasting precious moments, too caught up in our own self-pity to see the loveliness.

Just as I have to shake myself awake some mornings when I am reluctant to open my eyes to a new day, I often have to rouse my heart and spirit out of its temporary blindness and ingratitude. Life is short. The clock is ticking. What beauty lies just outside your door, awaiting discovery?

49 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia! I think I’m going to have to find a book of Isak Dinesen’s writings. I could use some wisdom and perspective like that. It’s there anything you’d recommend?

    • Susan, I’m sorry to say I’ve never read anything by her, though I would like to make time to do it. Her life is certainly intriguing. Let me know if you get around to reading her before I do– and then you can recommend title to me! 🙂

  2. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, my friend. ☕️ I’m sitting here considering your words and thinking! I could worry about how dirty my windows are but instead I’m going to be optimistic and thankful. Here goes:
    1. I woke up to birds singing.
    2. I have a warm robe and wool slippers.
    3. My coffee is warm because I have electricity.
    4. Oh, my cup is clean because I have a dishwasher.
    5. My windows are dirty because of the salty film from the ocean. Lucky me!
    6. Beautiful sunbeams are streaming into my beloved “428”.
    7. Bill and I greeted each other with “good morning”! I’m not alone.
    8. Storms pounded the South yesterday but we were spared.
    9. I’ll be thankful for my milk and oatmeal, though not too excited.
    10. I have Julia, my friend across the miles! 💛
    Well, that was easy enough and I actually enjoyed jotting that down. I have recently said “This seems so irrelevant.” in resolving various issues in my daily life. You have jump started my week… hold on! 😉

    • Sheila, I totally loved this list. Aside from the sunbeams (it’s been gloomy and raining for days) and the salt spray, I can say I’m thankful for all those things too (substituting “Sheila” for “Julia” of course). I’ll keep holding on and you keep shining on, as Misifusa likes to say! Today was a bit better than yesterday, so I’ll hope that tomorrow will be a bit better than today… 🙂

      • Sheila

        Bill and I are discussing our trip to Jeff’s service in hopes of making it happen, optimistic that the rehab will be completed and he’ll be released to travel. 💛

        • Sheila, I’ll be hoping, trusting and praying for that same thing!! 🙂

          • Sheila

            💛 I’ll keep you advised! 🙏

  3. Cherie

    Oh Julia, I pray there is a wonderful beautiful day waiting for you! I keep you, dear southern sister, in my thoughts and prayers every day! Love to you and Matt! Love and Light! Cherie

    • Thank you Cherie. Your prayers were answered today, because I got some worrisome tasks checked off my list, and a couple of routine home maintenance issues went well despite my fearing they might lead to yet more issues. So I’m feeling an extra dose of thanks today. The weather was gloomy but some stuff got done, so that always helps my spirits. How are you and Ron doing? I hope you are safe and sound and escaping all this turbulent weather.

  4. blseibel

    Yes so true. There are ” so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever”. I notice this in myself all too often. A bad habit that I need to change.

    • It’s a bad habit of mine, too. I had to remind myself of this very thing several times just today. But I did remind myself of it, and it helped. One reason I love being 60 is that there is hardly anything that can happen that I cannot tell myself with some justification: “Considering that I am nearing the end of my time on earth, is this really going to make enough of a difference that it should ruin my day today?” WOW, instant perspective. I remember how impressed I was that the older Mama and Daddy got, they could literally laugh off things that seemed major to me at the time. Daddy once told me “when you get to be the age I am, you will realize how little this sort of thing matters.” So true!! Plus, after losing Jeff, anything that happens seems small and insignificant by comparison. I would never wish such a loss on anyone, but it does bring the big picture into sharp focus.

  5. Mike

    Yes the clock is ticking and as the Pope says, ” We don’t have an infinite number of tomorrows.” Today it is 45 degrees in Seattle and I am wearing a stocking cap. A week ago I was swimming on Kailua beach. Boo -hoo. I am ready to return and will as soon as I win the mega-lottery. Bananas 1.60 a pound in Honolulu.

    • Mike, you did a nice job of qualifying the dream of being in Hawaii with the reality of bananas that cost more than three times what they do here. And the same goes for almost everything else. What’s really sad is that most of the indigenous Hawaiians do not make salaries commensurate with that cost of living. In fact, almost nobody there does. One thing about the DC area — the costs are sky high, but so are the pay scales. Not so in Hawaii, and it’s something that weighed heavily on my heart by the time I left there. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth, but that beauty has brought some not-so-beautiful results in the form of greed, skyrocketing housing costs and a culture that is too heavily dependent on tourism, which doesn’t create many highly paid jobs. Still, there is so much to love there. I hope you are able to return even without a lottery win.

  6. Amy

    I can only imagine your pain now but I do pray that each day gets a little better. That a smile from one of your gradbabies or a nice fresh snow (not a blizzard) will help to ease the sorrow. It is good to make yourself do what has to be done and important to take time to notice what makes life beautiful. I love you. One of my favorite characters is Anne Shirley so here is some of her wisdom. IF you haven’t read the books I HIGHLY recommend them. “One can’t stay sad for long in such an interesting world, can one?”
    ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

    • Amy, I only ever read one of the Anne books, but I would like to re-read them, as I feel sure I’d love them based on the many quotes I’ve seen. I especially like the quote you included; so true! I love you too!! 🙂

    • I read them all, Amy! I have thought about Anne in years. 🙂

  7. MaryAnn Clontz

    Good morning, Julia! This photo captures one of my instant joys when I see God shining down on us. I have been in awe watching this for many years; saying God’s Glory shines through the clouds. A long time ago, Paul heard a weatherman state the term for this is “glory”. I, of course, was excited that “they” got this one right!
    Looking around each day to discover the gifts from God, we realize they are at our fingertips, right before our eyes & within our hearing. Thank you for the reminder. Saturday morning, it was raining in our backyard, but not in the front yard. I went running out the door looking for the rainbow. Alas, it was hiding somewhere. I will be on the alert!
    You are a treasure to me!

    • Mary Ann, the thought of the rain falling in your backyard but not your front yard brought a smile to my face. I thought “Only in California!” and then mentally added “Or maybe in Hawaii.” I have fond memories of discovering (in California, or maybe Hawaii, or maybe both) that it is quite possible for the sun to shine on through the rain. You are a treasure to me too– how rich we are! 🙂

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        Sheila stated Jeff’s service. I did not know it was scheduled. I must have missed that blog? Is there a date? (You do not need to reply here, if uncomfortable. As always, you have my permission to delete anything I write that you don’t want public.)

        • Mary Ann, I will be sending out announcement cards soon. We got the date several weeks ago and I’ve been busy planning the reception afterward. I’ll be sure to send you one of the announcements.

  8. Stunning photograph. There seem many reasons why people do not want to get up and get engaged in the possibilities of daily living…I have many thoughts about this one today…you feel such grief, and I know it is terrible at times, and just…is. And there are other women who cannot face the day because of their harmful relationships or poverty’s miseries or medical crises or more….a strange life, this being human… Then there are such moments often shine through, And the photograph of a wondrous place-stunning. Take care of your self moment by moment.

    • Thank you, Cynthia. Learning to care for myself moment by moment has been a significant aspect of survival for me the past several years, and especially the past four months. For example, some mornings when I dread getting up, I allow myself about 5 minutes extra to rest and be mindful of how much I am enjoying it; it makes for a more pleasant start to the day. I’m happy you like the photo. That photographer has a collection of amazing images which (s)he makes freely available on Wikimedia Commons. The only identity given online is the screen name TheBrockenInaGlory, which WC shortens as I have it listed.

      Over ten years ago, in a letter to someone who didn’t know me well, I described my life as “strangely overabundant.” I think that still is the most apt description of life for many of us. Thanks for being here and sharing the strangeness of being human.

      • For some reason that last paragraph touches me at the core…fine phrase to tell the truth of the sense of your life.. I feel for you and yet how wonderful these lives we do yet live. God be with you.

        • Thank you. 🙂 ❤

  9. A beautiful and timely message for me, thank you so much Julia. I saw my robin at my feeder in my back garden this morning, my ‘Sweet Robin’ as I like to call him. He never fails to turn up when I need cheering and a reminder of all that is good in the world, in my world, when I am overwhelmed and yes, despairing at times…

    • Sherri, I am so happy to learn you too have a “Sweet Robin” to visit you. I had one (or perhaps many who seemed to be one) for several years, but the gloriously beautiful cardinals have decided to take up residence in our yard, taking over what I used to think of as the “robin condo” adjacent to our deck. Though I love the redbirds and their flashy color, I miss the humble robins that I now see much less often. What an uplifting song they have!

      I can so identify with feeling overwhelmed and nearer to despair than I would like to be. Over the years, I have learned to comfort myself with reminders that the ups and downs always modulate, and even the darkest moments eventually pass. Of course it helps to be oudoors and hear the birds sing. 🙂 Thank you for being here!

      • Absolutely…hearing the birds sing, our beautiful birds, helps dispel that despair and ovewhelm most wonderfully. Thank you Julia…blessings and peace to you.. ❤

        • You too, Sheri, and thanks for being here!

          • Thanks Julia, my pleasure 🙂

  10. Mike

    I appreciate your perspective on the indigenous Hawaiian folks. Such a land of contrasts. It is the only place I have been where at a public gathering more than once there was a special section set up for the “older kamiana”, usually in front out of the sun and people would bring them cold water, and ask if they needed anything.
    Where does the greed come from? Everywhere. And speaking of Greed did you see where Mr.Zuckerberg is suing some folks for exclusive useof his beach property on Mauii which he purchased for 100 million? I appreciated that in Hawaii ,most of the beaches are public and that was buillt into the zoning laws.

    • WOW, who does Zuckerberg think he is? Public beach rights are an established part of Hawaiian life, and the laws guarantee access at frequent intervals. If Charles Lindbergh and George Harrison and many other celebrities were supportive of these laws, it’s pretty tacky of him to think his (mostly lucky) fortune puts him above it all.

      Yes, there is much to love and admire about Hawaiian culture. It’s amazing and wonderful that they have survived all the onslaughts and retain the spirit of aloha, malama, kuleana and pono. From the kupuna to the keiki, everyone is welcome and valued in the ohana. As with many traditions all over the world, modern life sometimes works against time-honored values, but there will always be those who remember them, and for that I’m grateful.

  11. “This is the day the Lord has made…”
    -Alan

    • Absolutely. That’s my mother’s most oft-quoted verse.

  12. I admire your strength and courage, Julia. xo

    • Thank you, Alys. People such as you make it easier to be brave. ❤

  13. Mike

    What is the saying -“Don’t sweat the small stuff and -it’s all small stuff.”

    Hey where can I get some decent papaya? Missing it. And unfortunately I got busted at the airport with a containder that I intended to have for lunch. Oh well. I saw one at Uwaymias -Asian grocery yesterday -about 4 dollars a piece.

    • Mike, I have no idea where to get a good papaya, as that’s not one of my favorite fruits. I really do miss being able to get fresh pineapples for a dollar each and having all the groceries able to run it through the slicer for me and do all the work of getting it ready. We kept fresh pineapple in the fridge all the time during our Hawaii days. Hey, 4 bucks might sound like a lot for a papaya, but it’s way better for you than a hamburger that costs the same amount. So just treat yourself to one now and then; “hyacinths for the soul.”

  14. Mike

    The groceries got the pineapple ready for you? Where was that.? I just bought one at Costco from all places- Costa Rica.
    Just watched a video of the Kamehameha schools choir singing- Aloha Oe.If I h ad a link I would send it to you. It takes a while to get over Hawaii. I also found a new Land L barbecue not far from us where I can get ,”loco moco”- one of the worlds most unhealthy foods. I still miss the papaya.

    • Mike, all the stores I knew about (including the commissary) had machines that would peel and core pineapple for you. All you had to do is choose one and give it to the produce staff, and they’d take it back to the back room and come out with a peeled, cored, sliced pineapple that was so quickly and perfectly done that it was bound to be a machine (and in fact, they said it was). I’m not familiar with loco moco but I do know that Hawaiian food seemed to be a crazy mixture of healthy (fruits, poi, seaweed wrap, etc.) and, shall we say, less than ideal (white sticky rice, spam, lots of macaroni salad). I didn’t care for most of it, but I will always miss the fresh pineapple and the hot malasadas from Leonard’s.

  15. Mike

    I don’t remember those machines. We have an “Land L” barbecue here which has some healthy and not so healty Hawaiian fare including loco-moco. They say Hawaiian food and the plate lunch tradition started when plantation workers from different backgrounds, Portugese, Japanese, Indigenous and Polynesian who would share lunches in the field.
    I am reading ” The simple faith of Mr. Rogers” by Amy Hollongsworth. I am sure you have read it. I am giving it four stars. There was nothing simple about his faith and I am sure you know the story about the blind girl who was worried about whether the fish were getting fed so he put in audio clues for her to make sure she knew. She had written to him.

    • Hi Mike, yes, I have that book and if I stay in my PhD program, I am seriously thinking of doing my dissertation on Mr. Rogers, and specifically on the way his faith was so inextricably linked with who he was and what he did. Nothing simple, for sure. The more one reads about him, the more fascinating he becomes. Luckily (or perhaps unluckily, since research is supposed to fill gaps) he has quite a huge following and there are at least two extensive university-based archives on his life that are within driving distance. The example about how he always told the blind girl when he was feeding the fish is a typical representation of all the things he did without fanfare, of which most people are totally unaware.

  16. Mike

    I am looking forward to your book. Definitely underrated. And we looked up the Episode of Dr. Quinn in which he had a bit part- ” Dealing with the Devil.” Not bad. I wonder what Amy Hollingsworth is doing? She worked with the 700 club for a number of year.

    • You know, I only found out recently about that guest-star role on Dr. Quinn. As much as I’ve read about Mr. R, there is always more to find out about him. If he was here to hear me say that, I can just imagine him saying “That’s the way it is with everyone, isn’t it? Each person has so many surprises inside, and so many things we can learn about them!” 🙂

  17. Mike

    Today the temp. got up to 52 in a little drizzle. I actually got to take a walk by the Cedar River-still in flood stage from all the snow runoff. Some of the Forsythias are leafing out and few -very few daffodils are blooming. I am thankful my son Kris made it home y esterday in the snow from Queens to their place in East Harlem. Going next month for a visit. We make a circle now. Seattle-New York- Atlanta- Seattle. Thats a few miles total. More a big triangle really. Hope to get to Fernbank this trip.

    • I had forgotten you had a son in NYC. They really got slammed, according to what I read. The circle trip is a great idea – saves one leg of the journey and you only have to undergo the jet lag once. Now all you have to do is get some relatives in San Diego and you can make a perfect four-corner rectangle! Our temps finally started to warm up and the snow melted enough that I could shovel most all of it off our deck. The snowfall had been rained on briefly and then froze into a solid sheet of ice that was VERY slippery until today.

  18. Mike

    Sheila’s list is such a great reminder of everyday gifts. It’s pretty awesome. Writer/ Priest Ron Rollheiser says after age 60 we need only one word in our spiritual vocabularly: Thankfullness.

    • It’s encouraging to read Rollheiser’s thought there…but I can’t help but wonder whether some of that thankfulness doesn’t have to come in the form of the lemonade from lemons style, or the old “it could have been even worse” routine. It’s true that as we grow older there is more to feel grateful for, but also more to mourn, to say nothing of aches and pains and…oops, now I’m sounding like the grouchy old lady I often feel I have become. I need to go back and read Sheila’s list again…preferably on the Verandah, in warmer weather, with a cup of tea in my hand! 😀

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