I was awestruck, dumbfounded, mesmerized by the monumental magnificence of this phenomenon. I realized that I was witnessing a truly Divine show in all its glory.
Chihuahua, Mexico, 2005
After exploring the isolated hamlets of the Tarahumara Indians and the majestic stone formations of the surrounding landscape, I returned to the country lodge where I was staying. Sunset was approaching and I decided to go for a walk around the lodge’s extended property to relax and absorb the events of the day. As the last shade of orange on the horizon began to give way to darkness, I saw large groupings of clouds slowly approaching. Soon, most of the sky was covered in a gray and black mass of enormous cloud formations and I noticed a few streaks of lightning brightening the distant mountain ranges. In a few minutes, the lightning flashes became more frequent; weird electrical discharges of various shapes, intensity, and duration began to appear in different regions of the sky. I could hear no thunder nor feel any rain; the mute lightnings seemed to caress the sky and stand wholly apart from the clouds, which by now had stopped moving, creating a stable backdrop that looked like a gigantic theatrical curtain. It now became obvious that this was the beginning of a very rare electrical storm. At this point, I asked the lodge owner, who was passing by, to switch off all the lights in the lodge’s grounds so that I could enjoy the natural phenomenon without the distraction of the electric lights.
The lightning display, the scale and beauty of which no human fireworks’ show could ever equal, made me realize that Nature’s Art is on a completely different level than anything we humans create.
As I stood in the now surrounding darkness, the lightning show of Nature was becoming more beautiful and impressive by the minute. Soon, I was completely hooked on the spectacle and even invited some nearby guests to join me, who, by the way, declined, stating they “had seen such lightning before.” I found a stone fence and comfortably sat alone with my back towards the lodge staring at the vast expanse of the cloudy sky. The celestial sphere was now punctuated by an increasing number of extraordinary lightnings the like of which I had never before seen, apart perhaps, in some artistic photos which I had always considered to have been fake or at least hugely modified. Each electric discharge usually had a main “lightning trunk” from which boughs, twigs, and leaves of various lengths, textures, and durations branched out. Occasionally, many groups of such lightnings appeared simultaneously, filling the whole sky; at other times a single majestic one stretched along the whole length of my field of vision. I was awestruck, dumbfounded, mesmerized by the monumental magnificence of this phenomenon. I realized that I was witnessing a truly Divine show in all its glory. The lightning display, the scale and beauty of which no human fireworks’ show could ever equal, made me realize that Nature’s Art is on a completely different level than anything we humans create. I recalled Brother David’s idea that the main reason we fail to experience gratefulness in everyday life is that we take the things Nature provides us for granted. I pondered on why we are willing to pay a ticket to watch fireworks or some other show at special festivals but oftentimes choose to ignore the free, extraordinary displays of Nature. The answer seemed to lie in that we have become accustomed to receiving Nature’s endless gifts and, like spoiled children who get many toys, no longer appreciate them. I then thought, “What if I now make myself believe that this unique light show is not a natural phenomenon, but something that has been planned over many months by a billionaire for the purpose of impressing his guests on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding party?! What if I pretend that I am one of the select VIP guests that have been invited to the wedding, and that I am witnessing a man-made light show that cost millions?”
It was as if my whole experience were transposed to another set of coordinates in which my ordinary life became extraordinary.
No sooner had this strange idea entered my mind than I convinced myself that the lightning show was truly produced by a specialized company that had been hired by the billionaire to stage it for me and some other wedding guests situated in different locations in the surrounding landscape. While being completely immersed in enjoying the spectacle, I somehow managed to faintly keep in the back of my mind the strange thought that the whole sky was a specially constructed theatrical stage with a giant projection screen and that in the surrounding fields there were thousands of technicians with specialized equipment who were all busy working to create this one-of-a-kind light show just for me and some other invisible guests! The “just another ordinary natural phenomenon” immediately morphed into a “uniquely extra-ordinary human event.” Suddenly, I was witnessing not a natural phenomenon that I happened to fall upon as a passerby but the greatest human light show ever created, to which I was furthermore invited as a special guest. It was as if my whole experience were transposed to another set of coordinates in which my ordinary life became extraordinary. I now felt as if I were a king of kings, the pharaoh of Egypt, the king of Persia, the emperor of China, and that this whole show was being created for my own pleasure. While in this strange state, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for being alive and for having the honor to witness such an incredible event.
It gradually dawned upon me that I am a king of kings every single day of my life….
As I sat motionless for the next hour or so, being completely absorbed by this now-human light show of monumental proportions, it gradually dawned upon me that I am a king of kings every single day of my life, but I have become so used to it that I am rarely if ever aware of the fact.
Ever since that extraordinary evening in Chihuahua, the magical land of the Tarahumara Indians, whenever I find myself unable to appreciate something special that crosses my life’s path, I mentally change the coordinates of the natural mode of my perception by imagining that I am experiencing something that was created just for me by another human or by a large organization. I thus break the pattern of taking things for granted and suddenly find myself transposed to a parallel reality in which I become a king who has been invited to a very exceptional event prepared especially for my royalty. I then realize that, actually, I am a king of kings irrespective of the magnitude of the gifts that Life bestows upon me. Although it is easier to experience gratefulness in such special instances, the extent to which I expand the range of this practice to encompass the more ordinary yet equally miraculous occurrences of everyday life, is the extent to which I pertain to this royalty that we are all born into.
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Your experience, Nicos Hadjicosis!! of standing out and just taking in the beauty and power of the lightening storm, completely resonated with me. I remember, many years ago, when I was a young seminarian, and I was sent to my first pastoral charge/congregation… in Farm Country…Cattle Country in Northern Quebec. I was for the first time in my young life, completely cut off from and far away from all of my family and friends. I couldn’t call them back them, as the cost of long distance phone calls back then, (from land lines…cell phones did not even exist then, let alone texting or the internet…so we had to send actual paper letters, hand-written, and licked and sealed into an envelope…by Canada Post mail. )
I had grown up in Ontario Canada, but was sent to a very isolated rural charge in Quebec…to a French speaking community. My French was pretty minimal back then…but for sure…immersion is the best way to learn a new language. At 22 years old, I was very green, and let’s face it…a bit afraid. But not about to admit that I was afraid, and lonely, to anyone. Chuckle. I was put up in a very old decrepit farm house way out in cattle country…at the end of a very, very, very, lolol long lane. I was completely isolated in that old haunting, one hundred and thirty year old farmhouse. Your experience, Nicos, of standing out and just taking in the beauty and power of the lightening storm, completely resonated with me. I remember, many years ago, when I was a young seminarian, and I was sent to my first pastoral charge/congregation…far away from all of my family and friends, I experienced a sense of being alone, and loneliness and the fear of ‘can I really do this…and make it on my own’ at a deep level, for the first time in my young life. As the rain storm began, I was still inside the very old decrepit farm house, and the power went out. I found my way to find some candles, and lit two candles…holding one. there I stood, in this creaky spooky old farm house, in the complete black of night… way out in cattle country…at the end of a very long lane. I was completely isolated in that old haunting one year old farm house. That darkness was in the house and when I looked out the windows…it was completely dark in every direction for miles around. The whole region was without power. It was there I experienced REAL LONLINESS for the first time. After the busyness of the day, making pastoral visits, etcetera, meetings in the evening, preparing for the Sunday sermon, all the things we as pastors must do, …and then going back to that lonely old house in the dark. One night a massive rain storm, and you can picture a young 22 year old seminarian, scrambling…looking through wooden kitchen drawers, stuffed with all kinds of stuff…and finally finding, in the pitch black…candles in a cupboard. I lit one…and the circle of light spread, and I felt the strength and hope of that light in the darkness.
My father was First Nations…Ojibweh..Annishnabeck…we are of The Bear Clan. Wolf and Deer are also important teachers to us. However, I suddenly realized that this loneliness was born out of disconnection with the Great Mystery, through the busyness of always ministering to others, and then realizing…I stood alone…and needed to connect with Creator through Nature and THAT kind of prayer.
I needed to get out in Nature…and feel the touch of CREATOR…for I knew in my instincts…that was how I could feel comfort and strength for my new loneliness of the young 22 year old pastor…alone.
I went right out in the rain. I sat on a split rail fence…and spread my arms wide, and raised my face to the sky, and began to feel such joy as the coolness of the rain fell on my face, my eyelids, my tongue…my strong young arms…soaking my short hair…filling my heart with joy and power. And then the lightening storm started to roll in. I yelled out “Yes! COME! BRING IT! THANK_YOU!” and laughed from the bottom of my heart with joy and gratitude.
I experienced the power and the orchestration…the beauty and the majesty of that storm.
My heart was overflowing with such joy and re-empowerment, and gratitude for that experience of Creator and Nature…and Love…yes…Divine Love… harmonizing the Universe. I remembered the Native Teaching, that The Lightening Ones…come from Father Sky, to re-energize Mother Earth. This Lightening is NEEDED on the earth. It does realign energy lines that cover the entire globe…like a grid…like coordinates…all naturally made. It is all so perfect. Ki-Megwetch …Thank-you Very Much for sharing about your experience so powerfully, of Lightning storms and gratefulness in the Tarhumara region. Ah what power and joy. Blessings Be. Submitted by Jim Featherpen.
Thanks a lot for sharing your soulful story with us, Jim! Reconnecting with Nature’s miracles can only bring strong emotions like those you experienced after getting out of the ‘haunting, one hundred and thirty year old farmhouse’. Sometimes isolation or even fear of being away from anything and anyone we know, as in your experience, can re-energize our mind and our thoughts like lightening re-energizes Earth, as you say. I very much liked the following: “This Lightening is NEEDED on the earth. It does realign energy lines that cover the entire globe…like a grid…like coordinates…all naturally made. It is all so perfect.” Very original idea!
Lightning storms and gratefulness in the Tarahumara region! We often take the natural beauty around us for granted, yet when we stop to truly see the many gifts offered for free, we are awe-stricken and humbled. This great essay captures the moment and reminds us to be more aware of all the little (and big) miracles of our every day life. To live with wonder and gratefulness is a daily practice that will only help us create more meaning in our lives.
What an interesting location. South America is truly a mesmerizing territory. I especially appreciate the Indigenous cultures.
What a wonderful essay! It brought to mind a few of my own travel experiences that had sparked an overwhelming sense of gratitude, like the coral fish swimming around me while I was snorkeling in Indonesia or when I camped out in the Moroccan desert under a blanket of stars. Those magical moments made me appreciate nature’s beauty and the wonder of life at such a deeper level. Thanks Nicos.
I love the way Nicos intertwines this very special travel moment with gratitude and then bringing my attention to daily grateful living.
Beautiful! A chance to mediate on what life is all about.
Nicos’s essay calls us to approach life with a deep sense of gratitude for everything that comes our way. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for sharing this fascinating story. It’s a wonderful reminder of all we have to be grateful for.