I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it. — Shug Avery, in Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple
The miracles of the church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always. — Willa Cather, 20th-century American novelist
This session cultivates participants’ ability to notice the miraculous. They discover that “looking with absolute attention,” a teaching of poet and novelist May Sarton (1912-1995), can bring them in touch with their own capacity for “direct experience of mystery and wonder.”
Participants use their senses for careful observation of everyday items from nature, then draw or sculpt to attend still more closely and, through artistic expression, bear witness to “the miraculous in the common.” (Incorporate Alternate Activity 5 to add observational writing as another creative option.)
In a wide age span or multigenerational group, remember to facilitate sharing and participation for the benefit of all. Be careful to affirm younger participants’ contributions. Keep in mind, participants of any age who seems reluctant to speak may need more encouragement than others to find their voice.
Fibonacci Number Sequence
Alternate Activities in this session invite close attention to the Fibonacci number sequence, a mathematical structure that underlies much of nature’s miraculous order and symmetry. For example, when the sequence of numbers Fibonacci discovered (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13…) appears in the branching pattern of a tree, it is replicated in the veining of that tree’s leaves. If you have time, lead visual (Alternate Activity 1) and hands-on (Alternate Activity 2) explorations of the miracle of natural patterns. These activities help to prepare participants for future sessions in which they analyze and reflect on the miracles in nature.
This session will:
- Encourage participants to recognize the miraculous in nature and everyday life
- Teach focused attention as a spiritual practice that helps us find miracles around us
- Cultivate skills of close attention
- Introduce poet May Sarton, a like-minded friend of Unitarian Universalism whose personal faith was grounded in direct experiences of awe and wonder.
- Share their own experiences of “miracle moments”
- Identify instances of the miraculous in the everyday, particularly miracles that occur continuously in nature
- Learn about the poet May Sarton and encounter her eloquent witness to miraculous moments in nature and human relations
- Practice skills of close attention and detailed observation
- Express their recognition of the miraculous in nature through drawing or writing their observations gained from close attention
- Optional: Explore patterns in nature that reflect a Fibonacci number sequence.