Everyday Miracles and the “Skinny” on Walt

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I’ll be the first to admit, I have no idea about Walt Whitman’s faith, whether he was a Christian or not.  For all I know he may have been a pantheist, a Universalist, a Buddhist.  He died 120 years ago, so it would be pretty hard to have a conversation with him about it now.

I do hope I meet him in Heaven someday so I can talk to him about his poetry and his process.  I would enjoy gaining some insight into what it’s like to see through his eyes and hear how he crafted his thoughts into such classics.

That said, when I read his poem “Miracles” through my faith grid and spiritual experience, it’s hard for me not to believe that he had some sort of relationship with the Divine.  I read his lovely words about the miracles found in the common and the extraordinary, about the beauty to be found in the streets as well as the fields, and I am inspired to worship.

Somehow, I think that’s what Walt was doing.

Here is his poem, see what you think:


By Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

If you’re living a “workaround” life like I am (and who among us isn’t, on some level?), recognizing the everyday miracles may often be just what you need to get you through.  For me, they include a sweet friend writing me an email at just the right time to tell me what she appreciates about me; the return of green to the grass after a brutal summer drought; the giant chocolate Lab catching my eye from across the room and thumping his tail in greeting; the discovery of shared faith in the unlikeliest of places.

Will you share one or more of your everyday miracles in the comments below?

The Thing About Hands

“I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:15b-16a

I can relate to hands, can’t you?  Strong ones, gnarled ones, huge, tiny, soft, capable, calloused, grimy – they come in all varieties.

I have my mother’s hands:  the length of my fingers, the shape of my nails, the skin that is starting to thin.  I notice the similarities more and more as I get older, because it’s her older hands that I recall most clearly.  I find I even fidget with my hands the way she once did, repositioning my rings with my thumb and pinky finger, stiffening and thrumming my fingers when I’m tense.

There’s an extra spark of recognition these days when I look at old photos of her.  She’s rooting through a purse, folding her arms, holding a book.

And she has my hands.

She never learned to play a musical instrument that I know of, but she could type about a jillion words a minute, error-free, whether on a manual typewriter or an IBM Selectric.  When word processing became an option, it was a breeze for her.

She spent hours at the keyboard, fingers flying, typing out the notes she would use to teach her Sunday School class, notes she then printed out in 5 x 8” booklet form.   Sometimes she would even add clip art and decorative embellishments, though no one was going to see her notes but her.

She wasn’t an artist but she was always willing to learn: ceramics, crochet, dress-making – she tried her hand at all.  She was a perfectionist, so smart and yet in many ways so insecure, which meant she always worked harder than most anyone else.

To this day, I treasure the tiny sugar bowl and creamer she shaped and fired in her community center class.  For years I had one of those crocheted doll skirts she made that would fit discreetly over a roll of toilet tissue. (Remember those? The doll stood in the cardboard core).  And I see her clearly in my mind’s eye, bent over the dining room table or kneeling down on the floor, pinning a pattern to fabric.

She penned many a note in the margins of her Bible with those hands and wrote out prayers to her Savior in longhand to tape on the mirror, clip to the refrigerator, or tuck in her purse.  After she died, anything with her handwriting on it became like gold to me, physical evidence of her existence through the words her hands had written.

I love the idea that God wants so much for me to understand the depth of His love for me, He uses human concepts, tangible images I can understand.  Like hands.

Now if I’m fidgeting, if I’m tense, if I nervously ball my fingers into a fist, I think to myself, “Look at me.  I’m turning into Mama.”  And love courses through me like an electric current.  She’s been gone 15 years but she’s really not.  God has given me her hands and I am so thankful.

I think of my mother when I look at my hands and I am reminded of the love I will always have for her.  And I picture Jesus thinking of me when He looks at His hands, with nail scars that bespeak an unfathomable, eternal love.  It undoes me every time.

That’s the thing about hands.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwerfeldein/2234720298/”>Martin Gommel</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photo pin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>