What I didn’t notice

This past week I drove the three hundred miles to visit my parents.  They still live in the house I grew up in, so going back home always brings back memories of a half century ago.  When I enter the town, I have long since ceased to sigh about the old structures and roads that have disappeared or to be surprised by the new that has replaced them.  But what does continually amaze me is finally to realize that I grew up living on the very crest of a mountain but never noticed it.

For many years I trudged from my bus stop up the rather ordinary slope to our home near a rather unremarkable hilltop.   Only one house separated ours from the last cross street in the neighborhood, in the town really.   Along the eastern side of this boundary street, “Sunrise Drive,” were a few homes backed by woods that sloped downhill to who knew where.  I never thought much about it, although I had heard my dad say that our town was situated on the edge of a plateau.   And I knew my brother followed deer trails and hunted black walnuts back there. Still.

One summer afternoon I was doing something in the basement when a storm roared through.  A clap of thunder exploded at the very instant the sky lit up.  Not more than an hour later a neighbor’s house next to the eastern woods had burnt to the ground.  At the time I considered it such a freakish occurrence—that out of all the surrounding space, the odds were so remote that that particular house should be struck by lightning.

Unless, of course, the house was situated on the crest of a mountain.

About fifteen years ago, maybe more given how the years run together, a developer got hold of the forested land and cleared a road that descends partway down the slope   Estate homes now nestle in the trees, practically hidden.  The road seems a beautiful parkway and deer still treat the area as their personal breeding grounds.  It is a pleasure to walk the dogs there in the morning and a workout to climb from there back up to my older, more modest neighborhood. 

But now I can stand on Sunrise Drive, catching my breath, and look at what the trees had always hidden.  Far beyond the new winding street below me, on to the valley even farther below, and then to the mountains beyond that,  I now can see that in this one direction, at least, I am on the highest ridge for miles.  From this perspective, I indeed grew up on the crest of a mountain top, or at least what is one half of a mountain, but I had simply never paid attention for all the trees.

Once again, life is like that, isn’t it?  Beauty where we hadn’t noticed before.

Maybe that partly explains why I am currently a Lutheran Christian.  I used to think repetitive liturgy must lose its meaning, that Lutheran worship wasn’t sincere, etc. etc.  I totally missed the Lutheran deep appreciation of Mystery, the tenacious trust in God’s grace, or that most of the liturgy is really memorized scripture which returns to hearts and minds at the most needed of times—all very beautiful things.

That’s just one example that comes to mind.  But it certainly is also true about people—that there is often a beautiful aspect to any person that I simply may not have noticed before.

Have you been surprised to find beauty that you didn’t know was there?


  1. Everyday! I love what you share about the Lutheran liturgy. We must repeat that which is important and vital to our spiritual journey. Grounds me in my faith and study of the Word. The Word is beautiful as is your view — we must take it all in…