guest post and photos by Elaine Breckenridge,
It’s August. The farmer’s markets in my neighborhood are packed with all manner of greens, veggies, and fruits. Flowers in my neighborhood are making a last stand before they wither and decay or are taken away by their resident gardeners. Until then, there are a few precious weeks for us to enjoy the meaning of the month’s name. August, as an adjective, is often defined as “dignified and respected.” That is my experience of this month.
It’s August. But not just any August. It’s August 2021 when for a time many restrictions have been lifted despite an ongoing pandemic. To mark the occasion, my neighbor’s metal garden rooster has lowered its mask. A cloth once covered its beak, honoring the protocols of the pandemic, and is now fashioned as a cowboy-style neck-kerchief. For now, it is a symbol of hope to be able to walk unmasked even despite the Delta Variant.
Last summer one state park in my area was vacant. Last week, I went to the same state park and cried tears of joy on the beach as I watched the returning vacationers. There were children flying kites, seniors meditating on the waves and the hardy people were paddle boarding and sailing. No wonder a friend of mine said, “I don’t ever want this summer to end”.
But end it will. Unless you are lucky enough to pour yourself a glass of dandelion wine. “Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip, for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.” (Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury).
What exactly does Bradbury mean by raising a glass to drink the summer in? One word comes to mind. Savoring. Bradbury invites us through this metaphor of dandelion wine to savor summer year-round. As for this fleeting month of August? More than ever, we are being invited to savor this traditional last month of summer, precisely because we do not know what is coming. (This week a mask mandate for our local grocery store workers has again been instituted.)
Might we then consider savoring as a spiritual practice? I have an audio mindfulness meditation offered by Jon Kabat-Zinn in which he invites meditators to focus for eighteen minutes and fourteen seconds on one raisin. Savoring, in this case, calls for the capacity to develop intense curiosity, looking, holding, touching, sniffing, tasting this one tiny fruit. For me, this particular meditation also required patience.
“Is he ever going to let me swallow it?” I asked. I learned that savoring calls for both slowness and spaciousness. It is in fact a mindfulness practice. We cannot savor without being fully present.
In her book, The Wisdom of the Body, Christine Valters Paintner explains that “the root of the word savor comes from the Latin words saporem which means “to taste” and is also the root of sapient which is the word for wisdom. Her conclusion is that when we give ourselves over to savoring; wisdom emerges.
What possible wisdom can be gleaned by savoring the taste of the last peaches of summer? Or smelling the grass and soil in the early morning when the dew is visibly present? Or listening to the songs and cacophony of birds, or gazing at the night sky dotted with stars, planets, and comets?
“Paying attention to the world by using all of our senses can in fact bring a complete transfiguration of our life,” writes John O’Donohue. “Your senses are the guides to take you deep into the inner world of your heart. By being attuned to the wisdom of your senses, you will never become an exile in your own life, an outsider lost in an external spiritual place that your will and intellect have constructed. Your senses link you intimately to the divine within you and around you.” –Anam Cara by John O’Donohue.
Your senses link you intimately to the divine within you and around you. I could say more, but savoring also involves discernment by asking how do we want to spend our time and energy? As I gaze out my window this day, I have to ask myself, how many more words do I need to write to make my point here? Do I really want to spend the rest of the day indoors? Or, do I want to yield to savoring the goodness of creation?
Surrendering to what is a fine summer day, I’m throwing in the towel, that is, into my car and heading to the beach. There is pleasure to be had in this summer day; both moments of Sabbath and a gateway into Presence.
Questions for reflection:
- What do you savor in life and why?
- Do you practice or have you considered the role that savoring and/or the senses play in your spiritual journey?
Bio for Elaine
The Rev. Elaine H. Breckenridge is a recently retired Episcopal priest residing on Camano Island, Washington. She is enjoying nature, caring for two grandsons, taking online classes, and experimenting with photography.
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