There is much to savor in this mystery we call life.

It becomes a litany of appreciations and gratitudes; life savors, that brings us joy, pleasure, and make our hearts sing. Our five senses are gateways to savoring life. We taste and touch, we smell and see, we hear. Sometimes we taste a sound and see music and smell the sea, and feel the song of the birds.

This savoring is a magical act. Savoring food is just a place to start. You can savor anything and you should; it’s wonderful. It changes EVERYTHING. It’s about learning to live in the present, to fully enjoy the gift of each moment, and to give that moment the space and attention it deserves.  (inspired by Leo Babatua) To savor is to take pleasure and delight in, whether it’s a meal or a caress, a soft pillow or a sunset.

“Life Savors” rejuvenate us and lift our souls when our hearts are withered and wounded. Savoring life starts with a mindset that believes that excess, rushing, busyness, distractedness isn’t ideal. Instead, savoring life means we simplify, do less, slow down and be mindful and present. In Europe, for example, people tend to eat slowly and linger for a while in a café as they watch people walk by or enjoy the company of their companions. Sometimes when I go out, I just pretend I am in a café in Paris or a trattoria in Rome., where I can just linger and enjoy the ambience and food.

In the garden, we have benches that beckon us to sit and slow down. Instead, most of us see what needs to be done: the weeding, the maintenance, the responsibility. The garden does call us to enjoy what is there, to notice the dozen calendulas blooming happily, the lavender adding their electric blue color to the garden…notice it, as you bless each plant, watering by hand. Savor the changing seasons of the garden as we watch Summer sink into Autumn, Autumn turning with a nod toward Winter, and Winter blossoming into Spring.

I have a hard time deciding which aspect of life gives me the most joy…

pancakes-1265878_640Is it music? Opera- the strains of Puccini’s La Boheme that sends me into ecstasy or is it Jazz? – the soulful music of my father’s home town, New Orleans, that lives in my spirit. There are ballads and torch songs – the Embraceable You of George Gershwin and 100’s of other standards …or Could it be food? Particular foods: pancakes made with real maple syrup, steamed artichokes dipped in pesto butter, broiled scallops covered with thyme and shallots swimming in buttery vermouth. Asiago cheese made with olive oil and rosemary with a slice of fresh cibatta bread and a cold glass of Moscatto D’Asti near by … Oh! But then, there’s art – art of Renaissance Italy, Da Vinci, Michelangelo – the Impressionists Mary Cassatt, Renoir, Monet, and Van Gogh, as well the art of my friends who create… Then there are the aromas and fragrances that surround my life–lavender essential oil, scented geraniums in the garden, the scents of amber and vanilla, patchouli, and rose. Oh! But there  is nothing like putting pen to paper, feeling the ink gliding onto the page, or receiving a real letter in the mail and recognizing a friend’s handwriting on the envelope. The written word, Shakespeare, novels that inspire, poetry, it all stirs my energy and stills my heart. I have just barely begun to scratch the surface. There is so much on this earth that captures my attention, delight, and awe. Such deliciousness!
Life savors are all around us: going to the bay and crabbing off the pier, sitting on the beach, memorizing the waves. I love the rosey fingered clouds of dawn and the blue dusk of evening…the crescent moon and a night full of stars. Side by side with the sorrows and the sadness, the health issues and challenges of life that we deal with, these life savors do indeed save us. They keep us going, enjoying, embracing, laughing, breathing.

Ruth Gendler, in Notes on the Need for Beauty, makes a plea in our efficient, speed driven society, to slow down and reflect, to engage the senses, the eyes and hands, and cultivate a sense of wonder. Our souls give us ears to hear, to appreciate poetry and dreams, the eyes to appreciate fine art and the natural world. Our souls lead us to sources of joy, beauty, and creativity. Soul work deepens the spiritual life. Look into the heart of a flower, the song of a bird, the lift of the hawk’s wing on the air. Cherish and savor what nourishes and delights us.Wild Comfort by Kathleen Moore, speaks of the Earth as it “offers gift after gift”: growing things, falling water, and the wisdom of friends. We are called to be astonished at life’s gifts. Mary Oliver says, “This is our endless and proper work, to pay attention.” Pause. Be attentive. Observe. BE. Sense the wonder…

Moore reminds us that to listen to the dark of every night, to praise the mystery of every returning day, to be astonished again and again, makes us  grateful with an intensity that cannot be distinguished from joy. “Those who dwell…among the beauty and mysteries of the earth,” Rachel Carson believed, ‘‘are never alone or weary of life.’

Jungian analyst Thomas Moore observes, “Our souls like simplicity and authenticity. That which is natural.” The soul likes being present, connected to the heart. As a child, I loved being alone, observing the rain from our little back porch, observing nature in my mother’s back yard. In my kitchen, I like touching old things: a worn and enamel colander, a stoneware jar with my collection of old wooden spoons, clay jars filled with herbs and spices, a handwoven basket brimming with lemons and oranges, the antique wooden chopping board. My kitchen is not sterile, it looks used; and this is where I feel grace and where my soul thrives.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert decided that she wanted to learn Italian, a language that she found more beautiful than roses. She went to Italy, where pleasure and beauty are revered, to learn how to live in this world, to enjoy its delights. She mended her soul there; she realized that we are given life and it is our gift to find something beautiful in that life no matter how slight. In doing so, we find the God within. She discovered a phrase of Dante’s, “L’amor che move il sole e l’altrestella – God is the love that moves the sun and other stars.” We are also a part of that vast love.

In the Catholic church, when it’s not Advent or Christmas, Lent or the Easter Season, we call it “ordinary time.” That would be the “in-between” time. Certainly we celebrate and look forward to momentous occasions, but much of real life seems to happen during the in-between times. Madisyn Taylor says “it is during those in-between times that we are most in tune with life’s most profound yet simple joys. Between birth and death, triumph and sorrow, beginnings and endings, we enjoy innumerable experiences that often happen unnoticed.” These times are just as worthy of attentive savoring, to “stop and let your soul catch up.”

How could we forget to savor the devoted presence of our beloved pets or the dear friends we have known for years as we have quiet conversation or boisterous laughter over a delicious meal. Or the people we just met whose hearts are welcoming. I remember the woman from Louisiana in the hospital waiting room and the deep connection we felt, sharing depth in an instant that might ordinarily take weeks of knowing. There are my Muslim friends from Bangladesh at the CVS and the shop next door to mine, who always greet me with an open smile and open heart. I love to visit Jose and Leo at the Seafood Market who always make me feel so welcome. People like this are moving moments of grace.

David Whyte, in an essay about friendship wrote, “The ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor the other: the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another…”

There are people every day who touch us in various ways, whose spirit reaches us, who create small circles of love with delighted attention. Gabriel Axel’s film based on Isek Dinesen’s, Babette’s Feast follows the transformative power of love. The title character, a French refugee and former master chef, prepares a banquet for a dwindling Christian congregation in a remote area of 19th century Denmark. By her loving care for both food and friendship, Babette transforms the meal into a “love affair”.

This is a film about how people are transformed at the table. Old divisions are healed and openness gives way to joyous pleasure, forgiveness, and community. Babbette gave her all: time, money, skill, and love in gratitude for her years of shelter.  We see on the screen the wounded characters basking in the glow of her grace filled attention.

Spring is here and this is a season for hope. What do I hope for?
An easier life, perhaps, simpler, and more peaceful; that would be welcomed.
A richer life, how could it be any richer?
Just let me realize that life is a daily feast, a celebration to be savored, a journey, the outcome of each day unknown.
Let me learn how to flow in gratitude for all the gifts of friendship and of love and to inhale the moments of grace.  

One Christmas we received a card that said, “My wish for you is: to see the divine in ordinary things, to find what makes you come alive- and then go and do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

 That is my wish for all of you.