Monday, July 1, 2013

Be Right Here: On Presence

By Jennifer Grant

Maybe it’s the name of the wildlife refuge: “Ding Darling.” Perhaps it’s that the forest grows out of shallow saltwater, tree branches swarming with thousands of tiny, fiddler crabs. It could just be the otherworldly quiet of the place. Whatever it is, when I’m kayaking through the mangroves in Sanibel Island’s Tarpon Bay, Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky comes to mind.
The poem begins (and ends) with the following lines:
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
 Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
 And the mome raths outgrabe.
Mangroves. Tarpon Bay. Fiddler crabs. These sound like they could be figments of Carroll’s whimsical imagination. Published in 1872, Jabberwocky is found in his sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Slithy toves and mome raths? Perhaps they are lurking there in the Florida swamps as well.
Paddling through the wildlife refuge has become the highlight of recent summer vacations, and not just because the experience evokes Carroll’s silly rhymes. To navigate around narrow turns and away from low-hanging branches in the watery path requires focus. My companions and I are, mostly, silent. We are watchful for egrets, cormorants, and herons. No phones ring; nothing calls our attention away from the moment and place where we are. We are present.
Focus. Silence. Presence.
Do these words – in the context of our noisy, multitasking lives – sound like a kind of “jabberwocky”? Despite auto-replies to the contrary, most of us are rarely far from email or a wireless connection to the Internet. Distractions – chimes and buzzes and beeps from our hand-held devices – fragment the moments of our lives.
But this way of living comes at a cost.
The most precious human experiences require us to be absorbed fully in what we are doing. Creating or engaging with art. Listening as someone tells her story. Being intimate with another person. Sensing God’s company. When we only half-listen to – or half-engage in – any one of these experiences, it is diminished.
This summer as schedules shift, if not slow down, let us set our intentions on being present right where we are as much as possible.
·         Let’s take sabbaticals, even for just a few hours at a time or just one day a week, from the incessant buzzing and chiming of cell phones and laptops.
·         Let’s choose to gift others with the very best present of all – our full attention.
·         Let’s believe that there’s no reason to so frenetically attend to the fleeting details of our lives (see Luke 12:27-32).
Let’s choose to carve out more time for silence, for focus, for whimsy, and accept with open hands the gifts that God has for us this summer, whether they are as jarring as a broken tree limb jutting up from the bottom of a swamp, or as capricious as a play on words.
Jennifer Grant is the author of Love You More and MOMumental. She is a frequent contributor to Christianity Today’s her.meneutics blog for women. Read more at

1 comment:

  1. To be present in the whimsy is one of life's great pleasures, Jen, whether in a Florida mangrove swamp or sweltering in the 108 degree heat we have here in northern California today.