On the homestretch of my 3-month sabbatical, I am in New Mexico. Right now, April 24, a Sunday, I am sitting in the Historic Plaza of Santa Fe and I am overwhelmed with bliss. Here’s what led up to it:
A little while ago I had huevos rancheros at The Burrito Spot. They were, in a word, riquísimos. The chile, green, and the eggs, over easy, blended and soaked together into the blue corn tortillas below. Add to that the beautiful browns of potatoes and pintos also gracing my plate. My body’s gratitude was palpable. And then I struck up a conversation with the woman who came to clear my dish. She was so pleased to speak in Spanish with me, and I relished la oportunidad breve para platicar.
As I was just arriving at the Plaza I stopped at the Cathedral, St. Francis, in downtown Santa Fe. I saw people entering so I followed. Mass had started so I joined. I’m not Roman Catholic, but I know how to kneel and cross myself and stand and sit and that whenever the priest says, “The Peace of Christ be with you,” you lift your arms and say, “And with your spirit.” The inside of the cathedral is gorgeous, bright, with Southwestern designs painted along the plaster surfaces. Beautiful stations of the cross along the walls. The music – organ and vocals – was exquisite and inclusive of the congregation as the cantors gestured to the people to sing. I thought, “Music is an invitation to experience God’s beauty in our bodies, and to invoke the grandeur of worshiping the God of all creation.”
I haven’t been feeling well – a persistent sinus infection – so I searched on my phone for the closest drug store. A CVS was a 23-minute walk. I was loathe to leave the Plaza. Then I saw a “Five & Dime General Store,” mostly a tourist shop, but it ended up having everything I needed – cold medicine, sunscreen, and even some souvenirs for the three loves with whom I share my home.
I am sitting on a green wrought-iron park bench in the Plaza. It is sunny and clear, just a little bit brisk with a slight breeze. A little while ago, a Mardis Gras-style brass street band – loving me some tuba! – started playing nearby. People were dancing and shouting and stomping their feet.
A woman started yelling “Ben!” over and over. Ben! Ben! She wasn’t calling to me but to some other Ben across the way. Her cry was urgent and a little un-nerving but she didn’t seem to be in distress. She later asked me for $20. I took off my sunglasses and tried to really look at her. “No,” I said, “the money I have I need for transportation later.” She calmly walked away and said the same words to the people at the next bench.
The Mardis Gras band finished and now a group of Native American musicians and dancers is performing with drums and a song. There is a man in what looked to me like Aztec dancer clothing, complete with headdress and markings on his face. He is stunning. The drums matched the beating of my heart.
A kid in Crocs, maybe 10 years old, just came up to me while I was sitting on the bench. “Excuse me. Can I sit here and redo this?” He pointed to the ace bandage wrapped around his right ankle and foot. “Sure,” I said, “What did you do?” “I sprained it,” he said, “and this thing keeps coming undone.” “Well, good job taking care of it,” I said, “Be careful.” “I will. Thanks,” he said and he trotted to catch up with his parents.
A group of people are walking around the perimeter of the Plaza as a demonstration in support of the people of Ukraine. A kid about 12 years old came up to me. “Do you want a flag?,” he asked. “Yes!,” I said. He gave me a little flag with blue on top and yellow on the bottom. A woman behind him gave me a slip of paper with a QR code linked to various organizations that support the people of Ukraine.
I was content, but not overwhelmed with bliss until just now. I got a text while sitting here on my sunny bench. It was from my wife Brooke: “Sophia scored a goal!” Sophia is my 13-year old daughter. She plays defense on her club soccer team. She’s never scored a goal before. She missed 3 weeks because of an injury. Her team won 1-0.
And now it has all overwhelmed me. What a day I have been a part of. What unearned gifts I have received. There was a cumulative effect and it has built up to the point that I can’t deny it anymore. I am awash in grace. I slowed down enough to notice things I might otherwise have missed. I was open to people and experiences rather than closed in on myself. And yet it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, like something I made happen, though I had a part in it. If feels like something that happened to me and it makes me wonder whether I’ve had other days like that, but failed to notice them, or whether every day is like that. If only I only had eyes to see and ears to hear.
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