… on looking up

When the writer Anne Lamott was 48 hours away from becoming sixty-one years old, she wrote down “every single thing I know as of today”.

I have visited that list often (it’s easy to find on the interweb).

Also Ms. Lamott has even done a TED talk about the list, though her TED talk has twelve things she knows for certain and her original written piece lists fifteen things. I like to think that Anne Lamott would enjoy the fact that I see this as wonderfully indicative that we know few things for certain, mostly because ‘certain’ is an ever-wandering target.


There’s this one thing she says – and I think this is when she is talking about God, which might be the number eleven thing she knew right then. And she does talk about God, and worship, but then she shares something that her Pastor once said.

She described the fact that bees can be trapped on the floor of a mason jar, without a lid. They will just sort of buzz around bumping into the glass and never fly out… because they never look up.

I love that notion so much.

Not for the bees. They’re probably concussed.

But I love it so much because we humans act like we are trapped at the bottom of a mason jar a lot.

We buzz around, bumping into the proverbial glass.

Boxing with the ghosts of our pasts, presents, or futures…

Comparing ourselves to each other (along with our imagined, better selves)…

Turning speed bumps into barriers (forgetting that ‘no’ might just mean ‘maybe’ (or ‘never’ could be a stand in for ‘not right now’)).

We are so busy flapping our wings (and jaws) and clinging and searching to realize that… oh yeah, there’s ‘up’.

And there is nothing… nothing… preventing us from looking up. Any time at all.

I did it on Christmas morning.

Just went outside, right after sunrise, all by myself… and looked up.

First, I saw a pair of pileated woodpeckers – a rare sight indeed – at the tippity top of one of The Inn’s very old trees. And I thought that was my Christmas present.

But then… then I really looked up (like, beyond that particular woodpecker).

And, sure, what I saw is up a the top of this post, but here’s a closer-up-ier view:

The moon, in all its glory…

And imperfection.

The lighter highlands, the moon’s first crust, pummeled by ancient comets and asteroids. That belly button-naval-orange-ish thing on the bottom? That’s Tycho. It’s a baby crater – just about 108 million years old. You can tell… well, scientists can tell, and then they tell us… that it is on the youngish side because it’s so clear (the old ones, apparently, are blurry). And see how it has those ‘rays’ spreading out from it? Some of them are nearly 1000 miles long!

It’s mind-boggling to consider that the moon would weigh – like, if it had to deal with gravity like us (dammit) –  73,477,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons.

And this thing orbits the earth.

Which, by the way, floats (not the scientific term) in space.

Also in space are a lotta other planets and moons and also other stars, and all their planets and moons, and there’s probably other life out there cuz who are we kidding being so arrogant that we think we’re the only ones and I’m hoping tauntauns are real but ewoks are not …

Oh, sorry.

Sometimes this looking up thing gets me all carried away.

But there I was, my eyes dancing along the moon’s streaks and pock marks, imagining them as cosmic heiroglyphs…

In wonder that I could see them from two hundred thirty-eight thousand nine hundred miles away…

Where I stood just steps from my back porch…

On Christmas morning.

It was awesome.


I wasn’t worried about what everyone else was doing (or not)… or giving (or not)… or getting (or not)…

Or which God they worship, or who they vote for…

Or whether they’re pro Mac or pro PC (or You Tube or Twitch (a nod to my way more technically and video game savvy ‘children))…


I wasn’t comparing or contrasting or wringing my hands over my fellow humans.

I was just hoping peace and love to them.

Every them.

Every one.

Every you.

And me too.

This is what happens when we look up, and marvel. It is, indeed, freeing.

It’s true for the bees in the mason jar that Anne Lamott’s pastor described, and it’s true for us.

Christmas has passed, and New Year’s Eve approaches. With that, I offer my favorite toast-slash-blessing for this time of year:  May the best day of your past be the worst of your future.

Let’s make the most of our time together, on this very small outpost amongst the infinite.

Thanks for readin’.

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