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Evanston RoundTable, June 13, 2019

Taking the dog for a walk along the lake. What could be more mundane, what could be more magical?

The mundane comes with the calendar: a late May day, unremarkable except for a cool, light breeze and a warming sun, one of the first after our extended dreary spring. The magic comes with a fresh mindset: to take in every molecule and atom that sparkles and shimmers in the morning light. New perception brings new appreciation: relish how wonderful are the everyday details of life!

Start with the spectrum of sights: the infinite shades of green—from seafoam to shamrock and Kelly to forest—on grass, bushes and trees; the varied, speckled blues and grays glinting in the water; the pastel-splashed wildflowers peeping up from the cracks in the pathway cement; the twinkling sunlight sparkling off the waves lapping on the beach.

The dog—Juney—likes to stop at every vertical thing—tree, pole and bench—to give it a thorough sniffing over before adding his territorial salute. I indulge him because I’m in no hurry and besides, I know what pleasure and richness the smells bring him. To show his appreciation, he starts racing around at the end of the leash making tight circles in the sand, puppy-like energy at full throttle. I burble with laughter.

All the senses now engaged: the sound of the surf rolling up against the sand; the great trees leafing with exaltation at the warming weather; the taste and smell of the clean air; the touch of the light crisp breeze on my cheeks; the warmth of the sun on my face; the quality of the light, subtle and serene; the roughness of the leash in my hand, especially when Juney tugs on it to urge me this way and that.

Others sense it too. Passersby nod and smile warmly. Yes, they seem to say, this is it, a communal gift of a cherished spring morning.

From a nearby church we hear the chimes tolling the hour. I’m not a churchly man, but every bell rings deep and resonates with the spiritual glory of the day. The great gifts of nature are religion enough.

So much to see, such riches of depth and mystery, life serene and complex, elegant and endless, ever the same and ever-changing. With each advancing year I’m more aware of the precious quality of the everyday, the transcendence of the particular.

But finally home and work beckon: the brisk, cool wind nips at my cheeks, a reminder that the chill of winter is not that far past, and will be, in a few months, looming ahead, a touch of realism to check the magic.

So we head back, far from full to overflowing with the riches of exploration, but mindful that there is an end to everything, however exalted. Still, tomorrow might bring exaltation too!

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