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By August 21, 2023Pilates In Holland

This is my favorite time of year. And the best moments usually happen around 7:30 or 8 pm in the lake at Tunnel Park. Evening, especially on weekdays, is the perfect time to walk over and take a brief respite from life, playing or floating in the lake. Apart from some senior pictures or family photos going on, the lake is mostly ours. The sun is setting, casting that perfect light for photos and for dreaming. It’s ethereal, magical… awesome, to use my word of the summer.

Those moments are examples of hierophany, a word I learned this summer. Hierophany describes when something sacred breaks into our everyday world. I’ve experienced this a few times in my life, and I still remember each vividly. Sometimes they hit you over the head with their beauty, but more often we have to go looking for them.

I just finished Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May. She says: 

I think I’m beginning to understand that the quest is the point. Our sense of enchantment is not triggered only by grand things. The sublime is not hiding in distant landscapes. The awe-inspiring, the numinous, is all around us, all the time. It is transformed by our deliberate attention. It becomes valuable when we value it. It becomes meaningful when we invest it with meaning. The magic is of our own conjuring. Heirophany, that revelation of the sacred, is something that we bring to everyday things, rather than something that is given to us. 

One of the things I love about summer is that I notice these moments of delight more. Maybe it’s because I give myself the time and space to do so? Maybe it’s because I just love summer; it’s my happy time of year. In fact, come the end of August I start to get autumn anxiety about summer ending. And the lack of sunshine in winter is hard on my seasonal depression

2016 A moment of hierophany on Pilgrimage to Canterbury

So I really need to practice finding awe all year long. Which comes down to paying attention. I started thinking of some other ways I have of noticing and immediately thought of music. 

Music brings me moments of hierophany too. Certain songs will come on and I just have to stop, close my eyes, and listen. Not even listen, get lost in them. And as I was pondering, this NPR article literally popped up in my feed. (can Google read my thoughts now??) The author, Rob Stein, talks to Dacher Keltner, that University of California, Berkeley psychologist I’ve referenced before, who says: “Those pathways of changing our body, symbolizing what is vast and mysterious for us, and then moving our bodies, triggers the mind into a state of wonder,” and that emotions like awe, which stimulates the brain into a sense of wonder, help “counter the epidemic of our times, which is loneliness. With music, we feel we’re part of community and that has a direct effect on health and well-being.”

So music is a good start. But I feel like I need more. I’m going to keep looking, and I’ll be back soon with more. In the meantime, let me leave you with this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver.

Mindful – Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?


Author Renee

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