Tapestry of Faith: Miracles: A Multigenerational Program on Living in Awe and Wonder

Taking It Home: The Miracle of Close Attention

Part of Miracles

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

IN TODAY’S SESSION… we cultivated our skills for “looking with absolute attention,” a teaching of Unitarian poet and novelist May Sarton (1912-1995). Sarton wrote:

If one looks long enough at almost anything, looks with absolute attention at a flower, a stone, the bark of a tree, grass, snow, a cloud, something like revelation takes place.

Participants discovered how paying close attention to nature’s everyday miracles can bring them in touch with their own capacity for “direct experience of mystery and wonder.”

Participants observed everyday items from nature, then drew or sculpted to attend still more closely and, through artistic expression, bear witness to “the miraculous in the common.”

EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about… the 13th-century Italian mathematician Leonardo de Pisa, better known as Fibonacci, a contraction of filius Bonaccio (son of Bonaccio). He discovered that many life forms and processes in nature—including the reproductive patterns of rabbits—follow a number sequence first identified by Indian mathematicians: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… (To continue the sequence, add the last two numbers together to find the next number.) A good place for all ages to explore Fibonacci numbers is the website Math is Fun.

EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Examine broccoli, cauliflower, a pineapple, a pinecone and other plants and vegetables in or around your home. See if you can identify a Fibonacci sequence. For example, a stalk of broccoli splits into two, then three, then five, and then eight branches, a pattern that repeats in each broccoli floret cluster. What else do you notice about the item?

Family Adventure. Make a date together to catch a miracle in motion. Get up and get outdoors before sunrise, or find out where and when you can go for a wide view of a sunset. See who can be first to see the sun peek over the horizon, or disappear below it. Share opinions: Which strikes you as more miraculous, the fact of sunrise and sunset, or the moment you witness day begin or end?

A Family Ritual. Observation is a skill that can be honed with practice. Plan several sessions for practicing together. Each time, place a potted plant, a bouquet of cut flowers, or a bowl of fruit on a table and arrange yourselves around it with paper and pencils for each family member. Take five minutes for everyone to observe and draw the still life in front of them, or to list adjectives or phrases to document their observations. Then, compare your observations. Talk about how it is hard or easy, challenging or rewarding to pay such close attention. Share any revelations that come about the items and how they or nature itself are miraculous, or perhaps about the miracle of our ability to observe, or the miracle of sharing an intentional spiritual time with family.