Franciscan Spirit Blog

Dancing with Manatees

Not that long ago, I danced with manatees. Lord have mercy, it was good. I was in Manasota Key, Florida, my annual May gathering with my friends of thirty-five years. We swap stories and talk about the way the world would be if we were in charge. On the Intracoastal Waterway, near a congregation of mangrove trees, we anchor the boat and spend an afternoon floating, buoyed in the water, a treat for those of us who are escaping winter’s chill. The sky is dyed hope-blue, and egrets pose graceful and elegant in the mangroves.

Manatees are curious and unafraid of humans. They are gentle, docile, and friendly. So, without announcement, they swim near and around you, to check out the visitors to their world. One manatee swam under my feet, literally lifting me up, as if to welcome me. Oh my. This is a first for me. I had heard stories. And yet, no mental framing prepares you. I do know this; in that moment, as my laughter echoes in the mangrove trees, as the cares of my day dissipate, I am fully awake and fully alive. My senses are grounded to this sacrament. This present moment. This gift. This clarity. This permission to savor life now goes with me into my day. So, I wonder, why are there too many days when I miss the gift?

The Beauty of a Moment

In letters written in 1740, Jean-Pierre de Caussade (ordained member of the Society of Jesus) wrote about the sacrament of the present moment. We are invited to choose to live each day as a sacrament (as a gift), enabling us to see, to hear, to taste, and to touch grace—the goodness of God’s presence in our world. We need to bring this sacrament back and allow it to be front and center in our lives. I’m pretty sure that St. Francis would agree. Franciscan spirituality is an incarnational earthy spirituality. Put simply: God is close, never far away.

I live on an island in the Pacific Northwest, a long way from manatees, but that doesn’t stop me from dancing with them. Every day. If only in my mind. “Dancing with manatees” is my shibboleth, inviting me to live and savor the sacrament of the present. And I invite you to do the same.

– This is an excerpt from Terry Hershey’s new book This is the Life, about embracing life’s present moments. Click the image below to learn more.

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