At some point in the summer I started reading "God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us" by L.L. Burkat. The premise of the book is that the author spent time sitting, every day - rain or shine, snow or sunshine - in her back yard. She did it, looking for God. Her assertion that there were other ways than the classical spiritual disciplines that one could experience the presence of God was intriguing to me.
So, over the summer we redid our front porch to make it a little more "sitting friendly." We put a small table and two chairs on our tiny porch, looking out over our gardens. We started eating all our meals out there and I started just sitting and watching for God. In the waning days of summer we took to calling our little porch refuge "Paradise."
The exact moment that I will never forget came one evening after dinner. The tiny table had been cleared. The sun was setting and I was studying the potted plants right in front of me. Earlier I had noticed that we had a "volunteer" tomato plant that had found life in the pot of rosemary. It was stubborn little tomato, growing taller by the day and, even though it had absolutely no chance of ever bearing fruit because of its late start in life, it was busy making all kinds of little tomato blossoms as though it had all the time in the world. I had been watching that stubborn little plant, dancing in the breeze for weeks, but that night I noticed its shadow.
The shadow of that plant was beautiful. I saw the outline of every leaf. Every bump and wiggled stem. Every mapline of life was right there in front of me in black and white relief. For just a few moments I saw that tomato plant as more than the sum of its parts. It became art. And at that moment I woke up to the artistic power of shadows.
Now I see patterns in shadows everywhere. And often they are far more beautiful than what gave birth to them.
Leonardo DaVinci once said, "Do not despise my opinion when I remind you that it should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes, or a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which, if you consider them well, you may find really marvelous ideas. . . By indistinct things the mind is stimulated to new inventions."