One recent weekend morning Grace, Whit and I were puttering at home (I know! What else is new!?). I was doing laundry and they were in Grace’s room, next to mine, and they started to bicker. Suddenly, without a plan, I called, “Hey, guys! Let’s get in my bed and read.” Why not get into bed at 10:30 in the morning? My bed is, after all, a refuge for both of them and, in truth, for me.
To my surprise, Grace and Whit agreed. I thought at first we were going to read Harry Potter and then, out of blue, I noticed the stack of library books on the edge of my bureau. A Pebble For Your Pocket, a book of “mindful stories for children and grown-ups,” by Thich Nhat Hahn, was sitting on top. Ah, thank you, universe, I thought, grabbing the paperback before clambering into the middle of my bed between Grace and Whit.
As I opened the book I hesitated. I thought, for a moment: I wonder if they are going to go for this. Well, one way to find out, I thought as I cleared my throat and opened to the first story, called “Who is the Buddha?” Just as it had in the library, a gossamer veil of quiet descended on the room. It seemed as though all of our breathing slowed down. I felt as though something brushed past me in the dark, touching me so barely I might have imagined it. The last time I felt this sensation was in May, in the ER with Grace, and I described it thus: “I felt the feathers of holiness brush my cheek, the sensation of something sacred descending into the room, as undeniable as it was fleeting. There have been a few moments like this in my life – more than a handful, but fewer than I’d like – when I am conscious of the way divinity weaves its way into our ordinary days. This was one.”
I think that feeling is grace.
We read two stories and put the book away and the current of our day took us all with it. It wasn’t until the next morning, when Grace and Whit were sitting at the kitchen table working on their classroom Valentine’s, that either of them mentioned Thich Nhat Hahn.
“Mum?” Grace was looking down, concentrating on the glitter she was shaking onto a card. “Can we read more of those pebble stories?” I run upstairs to get the dogeared library book, and then, sitting between them on our battered wooden kitchen chairs, read several more stories. As I read I remembered the first time I read Thich Nhat Hahn. Peace is Every Step was an important book for me in college, a reminder of what mattered, what I wanted, to keep breathing, to live here. As you can tell, I’m still working at this, still learning the same lesson, and I keep flubbing it. Over and over again. But what is there to do but to keep my eyes open, to take a deep breath, to love this life of mine, in all its flawed, real, glittering beauty?
The hermit is inside of you. In fact, all the wonderful things that you are looking for – happiness, peace, and joy – can be found inside of you. You do not need to look anywhere else. – Thich Nhat Hahn, A Pebble For Your Pocket
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