ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 11 , 2007
Vol. 41 - No 41

Small but very real delights

With so many newspaper headlines and news items that make the blood either freeze or boil, the tendency among many of us ordinary citizens today is to remain focused on tragic events and alarming situations.

Purveyors of bad news are quick off the mark and we have a tendency to listen avidly to horror stories and then spread them around ourselves.

It’s almost as if nothing good ever happens – or, if it does, we don’t see or hear of it because our attention is being constantly drawn to the bad.

Opening the Sunday newspapers today (March 4, 2007), to be greeted by the dismal discovery of five bullet-riddled bodies in Muthurajawela, (such things are, sadly, too commonplace to be numbing any more), I was plunged into deeper gloom.

Then, out of the blue, a quote repeated to me by a Buddhist friend many years ago, surfaced in my mind: “Oh God who hast given me all things, I ask for one thing more –the gift of a grateful heart.”

My friend said that was worth keeping in mind, whether we believed in God or not, and I agreed wholeheartedly. It seemed it was time to count my blessings and to be grateful (to God, in my own case).

I looked out of my dining room window and there, balancing with ease on the trunk of the mango tree and peering inquisitively into the dish holding breadcrumbs left for the squirrels, was a pair of scarlet-splashed woodpeckers who are occasional visitors. It was a sight to cheer my spirits and it did, as always. I called softly to my two domestic-aides who came running to share my pleasure in watching the exotic birds.

The woodpeckers seemed like a good omen, to remind me that despite the chaos in the world outside, life still throws up so many quiet joys that we don’t stop to savour nowadays.

I visited a friend yesterday and stopped outside her front door, arrested by the beauty of her tiny garden, planted with such care by her, with unusual plants in bloom, trained artistically into bowers or spreading out in happy profusion, each with its individual small but distinctive blossoms.

I am no gardener myself and I couldn’t identify the plants by name, but I could appreciate the beauty of what my friend had created. out of the small patch of earth that made up her front garden.

There was a time, when my husband was alive, when we invariably sat out in our little garden until dinner- time, enjoying the sight of fleecy white cloud formations in a blue sky, birds flying home to their nests, the clusters of delicate pink flowers on a much-prized plant called copsia put down over 50 years ago by other hands, the amazing range and variety in shape and hue of the foliage that enclosed our pocket-handkerchief of a lawn, planted and tended by husband himself. I sometimes sit out now with my daughter and find a healing ambience there.

Human relationships offer us the most enriching experiences of living. The warmth of close family ties and of enduring friendships that, like old wine, have mellowed and sweetened with the years, are beyond compare. But it is also a matter for gratitude when young people take the time and trouble to visit and sit chatting in a leisurely way that suggests they enjoy your company. Music and books provide lasting delight.

Pleasure of a more fleeting kind – but pleasure none the less – is derived from the benefits of sitting at home before a VCR or a DVD player.

And I am most grateful for the way that e-mail connects me with people all over the world. Junk mail is a nuisance, but I give thanks for all the `Forwards’ that bring to my computer-screen stories that are inspiring, unusual, stimulating, entertaining or funny.

This morning, for instance, I downloaded a Forward of “The Best Headlines (actual), of 2006” and lines like the following made me chuckle: “Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers”; “War Dims Hope for Peace”; “Red tape Holds Up New Bridge”; “Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery – Hundreds Dead.”

One of the most incredible assets of being human, it seems to me, is our memory bank, the way it stores up all the incidents and experiences that go to make up our lives and how we can, at will, call up a vivid recollection of something that happened as far back as 70 years ago or more, seeing it in colour, hearing the sound of laughter of people long gone, smelling the aroma of our mother’s cooking even after we ourselves have become grandparents.

It’s fantastic that I can go back in time, through the power and magic of memory, to see my childhood home in the ‘gama’ not visited for several decades, recall in detail faces that belong to my happy schooldays, re-live significant golden moments or events in my long life, re-visit sights enjoyed on foreign travels ages ago – it’s what Keats called “that scented store” that we’ll unpack sometime.

I don’t mean that we should become absorbed in these small but very real delights and close our senses to all the misery that prevails outside our doors, far from it.

But there is this respite available to us when we want or need it, and each time we make a conscious effort to summon the resources we have and find refreshment for our spirits through them, we will surely lift up grateful hearts to whatever Powers we believe in.

By Anne

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.