The Antidote Is Awe

cure for stress, coffee ritual, easing worry, finding peace,

My husband and I seek refuge on the porch each afternoon in a ritual known simply as “time for coffee.” Somehow just out the door we’re a step away from the pull of obligations and worries. Here we feel centered by the light through the trees or the sounds of birds or the strange lumbering grace of a bumblebee in the flowers.

Our lives, and yours too, are twisted into knots so complicated we can’t see where they start or end. Those complications are made of bills to be paid, old arguments that didn’t heal, long hours and too little sleep, by endless political bluster and the fallout it causes. It’s good to let go of those tangles, even for a while.

Today on the porch we watched an insect we’d never seen before. It skittered without visible wings, its body open like the spokes on a wheel or the arms of a star. It looked improbable as an undersea creature swimming in the air. We gaped in quiet wonder until it was out of sight.

A few moments of awe are all it takes to remind us that our lives aren’t about those knots. We are pulsing, breathing wonders ourselves in a world bursting with miracles.  It takes looking closely at only one thing to see those miracles, whether watching a spider spin her web or looking at fungi that seemed to spring up overnight.  We exist for so short a time on this beautiful planet. We clamor over concerns when our lives may be better measured by how much awe we allow ourselves.

I have things to do, but it’s time for coffee. I’m heading for the porch. Hope you do the same.

We are, perhaps, uniquely among the earth’s creatures, the worrying animal. We worry away our lives, fearing the future, discontent with the present, unable to take in the idea of dying, unable to sit still.   Lewis Thomas 

Reprint from my farm site Bit of Earth Farm

14 thoughts on “The Antidote Is Awe

  1. I love your analogy of the knots, Lately, my husband and I have been loosening ours with a backyard fire. Watching the flames dance and change color helps us remember that there is more to life than the ratty carpet in the den. Thanks for always writing about important things, Laura.


    • I think there are two things that toss us into deeper contemplation, or beyond it to the peaceful space we tend to call meditation—moving water and fire. Surely our genes remember all the generations spooling back when our ancestors also stared at fire or water and felt at peace. I’m so glad you and your husband have made this a new ritual.

      Oh, and I see your ratty carpet and raise you a bathroom in perpetual going-to-be-fixed mode.


  2. Thank you. I saw this post in my in box and thought great I will take time to read that when I can focus on it. I’ll do the chores first. Guess what God had other ideas. I just flicked my computer screen on to deal with the chores and your post was open. Think the cat may also have had something to do with it. Anyway however whoever thank you you are so right and I so need to be reminded. I am not a bad person to stop and chill for a while. It even makes me a better person. Bless you


  3. At 70, we realize more and more how fast life is slipping away. People tried to warn us when we were in our thirties but we disregarded their words and worked harder. Our cat has encouraged us recently to go out on the patio about 3:00 pm for what we affectionately call Whine Time. She’s whining to go outside cause her nap time is over and we have a glass of wine while she explores the backyard. We listen to the birds and talk. Awesome time!! Thanks for making me realize it is more than just about whining.


  4. This is a timely thing for me to read, in the midst of prioritizing and budgeting. I’m reminded that I seem to carry this cultural artifact around, this need to “maximize efficiency.” It’s like a cloud of mandatory anxiety that hovers overhead, this drive to get things done, fix things up, untangle the knots, marinate in concern about the state of the world, etc. What a splendid thing to sit on the porch with a hot beverage and gape at improbable insects. What a good reminder, one that I surely need over and over, that life is short and the real priorities must come first.


    • I marinate in those concerns and flutter around multi-tasking too, Jennifer. Living in the world today feels like being pressed against an accelerator pedal doesn’t it? That’s why I need, more than ever, to make myself sit on the porch or go for a walk or fuss in the garden. These things peel me off that accelerator long enough to restore my soul a bit. They remind me that I’m not what I get done.


  5. Thank you so much for this, Laura. These past few weeks have been really, really busy for me. I’m preparing for a three week road trip, we’ve had guys over to knock down a wall, install a new floor and electrical work, lots of appointments, and keeping the kids busy with swimming, downtown adventures and zoos. All that’s good, but I’m missing just sitting still and being. I need those times to keep me grounded. You just reminded me that still still for a while won’t hold me back; it’s the juice I need to keep me going.


    • A dear friend of mine in India has told me many times that the way the Western world is undeveloped is in contemplation, stillness, and inner peace. It has to do with our frantic pace, the way we uphold being busy as the right way to be. I agree with her but still have trouble scooting aside my obligations (except for my afternoon coffee ritual). I know what your last three weeks have been like. Mine too. I have to keep reminding myself that slowing down isn’t laziness. It honors the moment we’re in. That’s the example I want to set for my kids too.


  6. The antidote is awe! Yes. It is all in what you are describing… the contradiction between the world of nature and the world of being human. Some might describe it as “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay rest his head.”

    When we seek refuge from,

    “…bills to be paid, old arguments that didn’t heal, long hours and too little sleep, by endless political bluster and the fallout it causes,” we are trying to rest our heads.

    Awe comes when the head says, “I give up! Stop! Nothing makes sense.”

    Animals don’t have to do this. They are creatures of earth. They can respond to the world and not have to think about it, about their position in it, about control or power or security. But humans are intellectually aware of our eventual impending physical death; we have nowhere to rest our heads. We innately realize we are not in control. Animals can go to sleep at night unaware that they may be dead in the a.m. or that they may be fired or that they have made a bad/regrettable choice. We can’t; we have nowhere to rest our <>.

    But our <>? Yes, we do. That is a choice – and deep down, we know that! When we can rest our hearts — do our heads even matter any more? That kind of thinking is AWEsome. hehe.


  7. Ack. At the end with the symbols I was trying to italicize 1)head. And then 2) heart. Didn’t know double arrows cancelled everything.


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