We say it when folks sneeze and we say it when we don’t know what else to say and many use the phrase as an email sign off , “Blessings”. On this particular Wednesday, I didn’t have a cold but I needed a blessing.
"Blessing" is such an old-fashioned word and it can sound smarmy, or lack any meaning in the same way that “How are you?” is often an empty gesture of politeness. Let me tell you how on this day, for a moment, the word “blessed” felt profound.
It was a gorgeous June morning on Lake Ontario, sunny and warm enough for summer clothes but breezy enough to keep me cool as I walked . The lake was the classic blue we think of when we imagine a lake. The sky was literally “sky-blue”, a lighter shade. Walking along the gravel paths between meadows of wildflowers and waving grasses, I kept thinking of the late John Denver’s ,“Annie’s Song”, and sang to the plants around me the one line I know, “You fill up my senses like a night in the forest”. Denver wrote its lyrics as a love song to a woman, but for me it was a mantra of thanksgiving to the Creator of nature’s delights. Along the way I passed huge mounds of wild rose bushes, whose deep pink blooms rewarded my face-to-face sniffing with sweet perfume. Delicious!
I stopped at the Trans-Canada Trail pavilion that houses the names of hundreds of Toronto donors because I wanted to visit my name inscribed on the “Toronto #3” plaque - a thoughtful gift from two dear friends when I turned 50. I felt grateful for my friends and also for the thousands of other Canadians who try to preserve and renew our country’s natural beauty.
When I started to tire, I snuck down an overgrown path to the small labyrinth painted on asphalt beside the Humber River. It’s in an obscure corner near the eastern base of the dramatically arching foot-bridge that spans the river’s mouth. I wondered how to thank whoever approved and painted the circling lines for this meditation tool of labyrinth walking. I stood in the little circle at the labyrinth’s heart, looking past the stone retaining wall to some geese paddling by on the lake. I named aloud some friends and family, trying somehow to remind God to look after them (what would S/He do without me?)
One of the ways I use labyrinths when I reach their centres is to stand facing each direction in turn so that I can see from different perspectives. At one point I found myself looking up at the runners, bikers and strollers crossing the bridge. It was heart-gladdening to see so many enjoying the outdoors even on a Wednesday morning.
Ironically, although I hadn’t seen a single butterfly on my walk through the Humber Bay Butterfly Garden, here, three species fluttered in, one white, one yellow and an orange and black monarch. My ornery heart swelled with praise.
After slurping up some cold fountain water, I started back to the car. I smiled with yet more pleasure when I came across an open-air art gallery! Some of God’s adult children had discovered free toys lying around beside the lake. They’d constructed dozens of sculptures, made from stones and driftwood. Some were mounted precariously on top of the lakeside boulders, providing the sight of sticks and rocks balancing against the blue sky.
Further along I saw a man in runners’ clothes, apparently taking a break as he sat on one of the huge rocks that line parts of the pathway. He gazed at the lake, sparkling in sunshine. As I passed, I said without thinking, “We’re so blessed, aren’t we?” In the next split second I worried that I'd blurted out something weirdly religious, so I was cheered when he smiled and warmly replied, “We sure are!”
Maybe there’s no other English word that sums up the experience of enjoying life’s good gifts, gifts that we didn’t earn and don’t especially deserve.
TV’s Tammy Faye Baker used to sing through her mascara-dyed tears, “We’re blessed, we’re blessed, we’re blessed, we’re blessed, we’re ble-e-essed.”
The simple song had no words other than that one affirming sentence, repeated over and over.
Dear Reader, may you enjoy on this day all that God has provided.