Awe Takes Time

Thirty three years ago today I gave birth to a child. (The second of four).  This morning, walking through the dewy clover field, the rising sun felt suddenly warm upon my back.  Forty years ago today I watched two men walk on Earth’s moon from a television set at a church camp.  At this moment, while I write, I stop  to listen to the call of a hen announcing she’s laid an egg.  What I have learned: awe takes time.

I’ve been reading and looking at the picture book Voices From the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences by Andrew Chaikin with Victoria Kohl.   Between the lines, and sometimes directly, the astronauts reflect that the missions might have been more successful, in retrospect, had they had time to simply…be.  To admire.  To look at moon and Earth and space through the lens of their souls.  To take an extra two-hour orbit around the moon without being busy.  To simply watch the passing surface of the moon for the sheer childlike joy of it.  To explore the ground not merely at the service of geology, as interesting as the rocks were, but to also note the very extra-ordinariness of what they saw and felt.  And not just for themselves, but for respect for humanity’s collective sense of awe in that moment. 

Against their instincts, the men keep calling themselves back to the tasks at hand with the tools of a lifetime of training and discipline.  But seeing the solitary frailness of the earth “the biggest philosophy,  foundation-shaking impression” as Bill Anders put it, was this: 
Earthrise, Christmas Eve, 1968, Apollo 8

Earthrise, Christmas Eve, 1968, Apollo 8

Looking back upon Earth.  It’s very delicate.  It reminded me of a Christmas tree ornament.  Very fragile, delicate.  And you could imagine that we only live in that tiny little skin around the outside…. The only color you could see in the whole universe.  Everything else was black or white or gray.

 
 Stu Roose said it this way. I think that might add to the effect, this feeling of how very, very small the Earth is.  I don’t know.  Kinda hard to express. That’s why we need to send a writer.  We need to send a poet.  

Aside from the inadequacy of words to describe myriads of indescribable visual impressions, trying to respond to questions from a public anxious and deserving to share the adventure, causes much frustration.  People ask about the astronaut’s experience but with preconceived notions of what they want to hear, or what they are able to hear.  The questions seem too small.  This dynamic reminds me of mystics, coming back from the edge of the soul with portions of Reality to fold into the growing data of existential wonder in human beings.  The existing categories do not possess enough dimensions to absorb the witness rendered by the traveller of inner space.

Then there’s the coming back itself.

Return to Earth [Aldrin’s book] was to readjust to life after an event that brought on tremendous impact, tremendous changes in a person’s life.  And it’s not just that trip, because I’ve found there are a lot of little “return to earth’s.” … Then you gotta come back and do the laundry, and all the rest of that stuff, and face reality.  Sometimes as if it never happened.  Or despite it ever happening.  -Buzz Aldrin

I remember thinking in lunar orbit, that if I got back from this, I was going to live my life differently, in that I was going to try to live it … like I want to live it.  I’m just going to do like I think is right.  That’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to do that more, because I don’t want to miss this chance …. Mostly it made me have a lot of courage to do what I wanted to do and be happy about it …. That’s one thing that really allowed me to be an artist.  I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to be an artist.  -Alan Bean

Awe takes time.  I try to slow down and look at something, like the perfect cream-white moth against the screen door.  Or hear the ingenious inner melodies within the Bach dances Emily plays on solo cello.  Or stop to decode the profusions of scents the sun releases from the herbs in the kitchen garden.  I have never slowed down enough since childhood, to observe and appreciate the wonders within the days’ journeys.  And now it takes a new discipline and training and spiritual tools to wait for Awe, just as it took discipline and training to wean myself from childhood’s awe.

Here at Bluestone Farm, we intentionally take the time and discipline to try to discern patterns of consciousness we share with all being.  Awe is the Opus Dei we call each other to as often as the bell calls us to the monastic Opus Dei.  After a lifetime of skipping over the surface, running to the next demanding task while thinking beyond to the tasks demanded after that, never doing anything really well in the moment, this Opus Dei is hard work.  “Noticing” Brother Bede calls it.  Noticing beyond the egoic self to recognise human immersion in the One.

Here’s one of Ed Mitchell’s astounding observations that resonates with our life here, of perceiving the universe as an organism of emergent consciousness, of which we humans play such an odd and humble part.

What I do remember is the awesome experience [on the trip back from the moon] of recognizing the universe was not simply random happenstance…. That there was something more operating than just chance…. I’ve assiduously spent the last fifteen years figuring out what was true….I know that information flows…[and] transmits in some way beyond electromagnetic equations….I see [the universe] as a learning organism, like the human is a learning, growing, changing, information-assimilating and -organizing organism.  -Ed Mitchell

Awe takes time.  But, from what does Awe take time?  Truly, awe is the only really memorable part of life, piercing moments breaking through time.

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3 Responses to “Awe Takes Time”

  1. Karl Staufenberg Says:

    Suzanne … liked the “Awe takes time” paragraph … a friend and I have been trying to slow down and really see and experience things and have been writing and talking about what you label “awe” for several months …

    • ammaguthrie Says:

      Well, I remember you as a careful poet, revising, studying with care, getting it just right. I’m so glad you’re writing. As Obi Wan said in another context and not with the same words exactly, May the Awe be with you. -Suzanne

  2. Bonnie P. Says:

    Suzanne, So beautifully put. You do have the poet’s gift for bringing the Unspeakable to the lives of others. Thank you for once again reminding me to fully live my moments, no matter where or when.

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