For Lent this year I thought I’d add a daily practice of sitting on our back porch for ten minutes, doing nothing. I didn’t actually end up doing this every day. Maybe about half the days total. But hey, twenty-ish days of porch sits are better than no days of porch sits, right?
I don’t really have a neat and tidy take-away from it, but I did enjoy slowing down and noticing what’s all around me every day. There are many things I don’t always take time to look at.
I also felt like it was an opportunity to say a small little “screw you,” in my own way, to the destructive capitalistic forces that try to make us feel guilty and worthless if we don’t spend every second of every day doing “productive” things. I’m here to listen and watch for one who said, pay attention to the birds and wildflowers and learn thoroughly from them. And if that isn’t a bit of an anti-capitalist manifesto, I’m not sure what is.
After each porch sit, I wrote a sentence or two about what stood out to me from that time. I’d like to share these thoughts with you. I edited some of them lightly but didn’t wrap them up with a neat introduction or conclusion, because I think they resist that. (The real world resists that . . . although if you get something in particular out of these thoughts, or if you relate to some of them, I’d love to hear it.)
Do you have a practice along these lines—maybe one you’ve been able to sustain beyond Lent? I’m all ears.
Here’s what I wrote:
Today I noticed a plant I never noticed before, high up over the neighbors’ yard, poking out between cedar boughs, reaching toward the sun. Today I thought about how I don’t often go outside and look up. I thought about how tall the cedar trees are. Then I watched the clouds wisp surprisingly quickly across the sky until there was no blue left, all gray. Today I watched a small black-headed bird perch on a hanging basket and turn his head back and forth, almost watching me, until my phone made a noise and startled us both. Today I noticed and gave thanks for the trees all around us that have not been cut down. Today I felt the wind and watched everyone else feel it, too: the cedars, the grasses, the cat whose ears twitch at every rustling sound. To be attuned like that to the Spirit who moves like wind. Today I watched the rain come down in steady gray mist-lines and felt that God is close to those who weep with broken hearts. I can think of many. Today I looked at the neighbors’ newly re-growing fig tree, dramatically chopped down, finding ways to grow again. Today I noticed that the raspberry plants I feared were dead are making new leaf-buds. Today I felt unsettled, not sure where to focus, until I closed my eyes and listened to the rain. It plops and splatters with so many different sounds. Today I thought about how each fruit tree returns to life at its own pace: the pear buds ready to open, the sweet cherry buds farther along than the sour ones. Tonight I let the airplanes taking off on the right and the cars driving down Ambaum on the left surround me with sound. Tonight the clouds stood still and the fir tree silhouettes were striking against the darkening sky. Mostly, though, I just watched the cat who is now ours as she sat in the grass, grateful that her shelter days are over. Tonight I listened as one bird sang four notes over and over, trilling and warbling a little differently each time. I wondered what her song meant. Tonight the rain dripped in rhythm with the wind. I heard the airplanes and yearned for silence. This evening I couldn’t believe I could sit outside in a short-sleeved shirt. I felt the gift of an unseasonably warm day. Tonight I looked West and marveled at how much brightness was still in the sky after 8 pm. Tonight I thought about how small the pear tree buds were at the beginning of Lent. Now, they’re blooming. And yet the air is still cold, so cold. Tonight, in the dark, I thought about how delightfully slowly plants grow. I thought about the miracle it is that the strawberry plants are starting to flower even though it’s still so cold. Today I watched the long-haired dark cat with the white boots—the one who always scurries away quickly when he sees me—saunter slowly across the backyard, not noticing me, or not caring. Today I saw little bugs flitting about and hoped they might be pollinating the fruit trees and not eating the leafy greens. Today I feel sad about many things, but I also feel joy when I sit still long enough that birds feel safe venturing to the bird feeder a few feet away.