Paying Attention

I did something really stupid! Readers have heard me complain about Minnesota winter so much that no one should be surprised that I scarfed up a really cheap flight to Florida. So Wednesday I get to the airport at 6:45 a.m. for my 7:50 departure. Zone 1 is invited to board and I gratefully prance to the skyway with my digital boarding pass emblazoned on my iPhone. The agent was thrown off routine procedure and asked me to step aside. Long story short, I had confused a.m. and p.m. My departure was to be 7:50 P.M.! Imagine my disbelief, frustration, and exasperation!

In a frozen daze I stepped aside considering my options. “Okay, compose yourself!” The water had been turned off at home (a precaution Minnesotans take in Winter), the thermostat set at 60 and the dog was off settled with his favorite sitter. This being prime time for Minnesota families to visit Disney World there was zero chance of going stand-by on any for the next four flights from MSP to Orlando. It was too soon to suck up my pride and call my brother to say he would not be picking me up at 12 noon but rather I’d be arriving at midnight.

Despite a horrific winter in Minnesota, it is remarkable what “the universe” (i.e., Providence) conspires to provide if we are but open and receptive. Taking a seat in  digitally equipped booth increasingly common at airport gates, I sought reorientation and refuge in on the iPad there for travelers’ convenience.  There in my email box was a routine link to a blog post from my friend Susan. This day she shared a poem by 13th century Persian Sufi poet, Rumi:

The Guesthouse.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Thank you, Susan!  How did you anticipate my need?  I spent the next twelve hours at the airport attempting to cultivate openness, attentiveness, receptivity, curiosity, gratitude. I was not entirely successful. However, the day was not a total bust.  I observed many things about our culture, other people and — with a certain resistance — about myself.

One primary lesson I hope never to forget is the profound significance of twelve hours.

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