The Art of Savoring

This morning I went to my favorite diner in Pawlet, Vermont. I had sausage gravy, something the cook rustled up for me simply because I mentioned it in passing yesterday. The coffee was extra strong, a good thing.

Tom Petty and Joe Cocker were playing on the stereo. I worked for a couple of hours.

I had been sick last night. One of those passing stomach bugs. Maybe sausage gravy wasn’t the best idea, but it felt good going down. It warm and salty and peppery with a hint of sweet Italian sausage. My stomach, despite my poor decision in foods, decided to let it stay down.

After I knocked off the first writings of the day, I went back to my home. Driving in and parking, I walked over to my little flower beds at the back of the house. I got a late start planting them this year so things were late in blooming, but now, right on the cusp of fall, the colors and fragrances are sweet and bright. Most nights they predict frost now, and sooner or later the weatherman will get it right and the color and aromas will be gone. I savored them for a few minutes.

I worked some more. It is warm enough that I can still leave the doors open in the daytime and be comfortable. But it is cool enough that a few wood stoves burn through the day and the light smell of wood smoke is in the air. I know it’s pollution, but I love that smell. I love living in a place where so many heat with wood.

I stopped for a few moments and offered up a prayer. It’s been a brutal few weeks with hurricanes, fires, political insanity, deaths, loss and actual insanity, ending in the killings in Las Vegas. I am still in the mourning and prayer stage, unable to make sense of it all – the losses are overwhelming still when I think.

It will pass. I will move to a “what can I do?” place soon enough. It’s how I work, overwhelmed at first, but only at first.

I went upstairs to pack. I have a short road trip ahead. The bed was a mess and I left it. The perfume of the woman I love lingered on the pillows. Why would I mess with that? My cat lay on her spot on the bed, defying me to move her. I pet her instead and felt the deep rumble of her purring as she nuzzled my hand.

It’s the little things. That’s what my therapist told me when I was in my darkest place. It is the little things, the good details in life that remind us when the big picture is a blurry mess, that life is a beautiful thing. I have a friend, Paula, who calls them “little scraps of magic.” And so they are. White magic that surrounds us, signs I believe, of a benevolent God. Tiny reminders that taken alone mean little.

But when added up, when we take the time to notice and count them, they are life-changing. When we take the time.

There was a fallen leaf on the black convertible top of my car when I went to put my suitcase in. A beautify thing. A simple thing. I tossed my suitcase in the car and the wind, warm and cool at the same time, blew the leaf away.  There will be more. There are always more.

And that is the lesson my therapist wanted me to understand. Good is around us. Beauty is around us. Even when we humans act like idiots and madmen, the good stuff surrounds us. It only we make ourselves look beyond the pain inside.

That’s hard to do of course. Pain makes us pull inward. We ball up, put up walls, retreat. It’s a safety thing. For some, it’s a survival thing. The more the pain, the stronger the need to move our heart to a fetal position. The longer the pain goes on, the harder it comes to look for that good. It’s not easy.

But it is powerful.

We forget the power of little things sometimes. I know I have at times. But when I am overwhelmed, again and again, I turn to the simple act of savoring. A touch. A taste. Smells in the air.

And I heal.

Always, I heal.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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