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July 6, 2014

Ah, winter in paradise -- a refreshing break from the heat both for those born here in the Cook Islands and those who have come from cooler climes. The first time a local friend told me that on chilly nights, she loves curling up with her mink, I was astonished. Where I come from, a mink is a small furry animal whose pelt is used for luxurious and very pricey fur coats. I pictured her lounging in a full fur coat, wearing her best pearls. Then another friend mentioned how she loved her mink. I finally found the confidence and humility to ask, "What IS a mink?" She looked at me as if I had come from Mars instead of Canada and said, "You know. A fluffy blanket." "Ohh," says I, knowing she meant the soft, man-made fiber blankets that are common in the northern hemisphere, especially in the Yukon. They have pictures of wolves and Indian maidens, and full moons on them there. The one I bought that day in Aitutaki was decorated with whales and dolphins; others had hibiscus and other native flowers.

I've had the virtue of Mindfulness on my mind lately. It is being truly present to life, aware of our senses, aware of our thoughts. It is being deeply present to the world around us, quieting our minds and becoming acutely aware of the beauty in the moment. How often do we give ourselves the sweet time for a day, or even an hour of Grace?

I realized recently that here in the midst of such awesome beauty, I was missing being out in nature, just to be, not to do anything. So I went walking. These cooler mornings are ideal for walks on the beach or along the road. On the beach a white heron lifted off just as I approached and his graceful white wings beat only once before landing a little ways off, as he sought breakfast amongst the hundreds of tiny bait fish dancing along the shore. A small lizard with a luminous green tail wove amongst the sea grasses. The lagoon shone with sun dollars dappling the ripples, and white foam leapt as waves broke against the reef. Another morning, walking on the road, I enjoyed the sight of blossoms in white, pink, red, peach and yellow strewn casually along the ground. A mother pig and her four wee piglets romped in the cool – well, the babies romped as the mother looked on, fatigued like any mom would who had just nursed four babies at once. As bikes and cars sped past, there were smiles, nods and waves from every one. The roadside grasses were covered in unaccustomed dew. What a gift, these simple pleasures, all this beauty.

What I have discovered is that here on this wee island, like everywhere else on earth, people have too much to do, get too caught up in the tasks of the day to take the time for dreaming, breathing, noticing the beauty. Several people looking at one of my husband Dan's sunset photo installations on Aitutaki have said, "He is a blessing to us. He reminds us of the beauty we have right here that we take for granted." Whenever I see a family viewing a sunset, picnicking on the beach, playing ball, or paddling in the lagoon, it warms my heart, knowing that for that time, they have stopped to smell the sea air, to play for a while, to drink in the beauty that is all around us. They have chosen a pace of Grace.

So today I chose a day of Grace, giving myself full permission to do whatever I feel like. The freedom of an unstructured day. A walk in the morning air, a large mug of good coffee, a chat with Dan on the deck, luxuriant time for prayer, and writing for a while. I may or may not cook today. Either way it will be my way of being lifted up on wings of Grace. What is yours?


Author photo
Linda Kavelin-Popov

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