The gift of surprise

Every year, I am always taken by surprise by the first sign of life in the garden.

I had not noticed until yesterday that the subterranean bulbs had broken the surface. Amid the dull brown rubble, the green startled me.

It’s good to be surprised. Even by ordinary things. Poet Meena Alexander writes:

 “The periodic pleasure
of small happenings
is upon us.”

There are daily periodic pleasures: the heat of a morning shower, the spreading rose of dawn, the taste of food, storytelling at the end of a day, and many more. But seasonal small happenings bring a different kind of pleasure, since the span of waiting is longer. They can catch us unaware.

I occasionally try to surprise myself. This is not easy to do, as you can imagine. It involves giving my future self a gift. As I put a jacket away for the winter, I sometimes slip some money into the pocket, relying on the team of time and a selective memory to keep the generosity a secret.

Happily, it often works. And it always brings a smile to my face. And I say, “Thanks, past me! What a thoughtful thing to do!” But not out loud. There is a limit to my quirkiness.

The spring is a similar, slow-arriving gift. As I write, I hear a chorus of birds outside, loud enough to penetrate closed glass doors. And I realize how much I missed them in their absence. You would think that the small happenings of spring – the riot of color and sound and scent – would be so familiar, they would hold nothing new. But that same tag team of time and distraction help us once again, obstructing our view, giggling about their secret, until they part and point excitedly to something we would otherwise have known was coming all along. Look at that!

Like startling green shoots in a brown garden.

These small happenings, these periodic delights, Lord, are all gifts from your gracious goodness. You gave the shoots their brilliant green. You gave the birds their varied song. Thank you for the changing of the seasons and specifically for the coming of spring. Give us eyes to see its wonders anew.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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