I woke up to two dogs anxious for their morning walk and a chill in the air that had me zipping up my coat for the first time this season.
|One of our children, apparently planning to follow
in the footsteps of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Yes, we had a small cold snap about two weeks ago but I refused to wear anything more than a hoodie on that morning. I’ve read at least three poems and probably twice as many works of purple prose that talk about how a morning walk is sacred time to connect to God made imminent in nature. I must admit, however, that for me it’s almost always a chore. I am very much a “morning person,” meaning my most productive time of the day is before midday. So having to begin my window of productive time with a stroll around the block for the dogs to do their morning business doesn’t necessarily open me up to seeing God’s handiwork in an awe-inspiring light!
But the very fact that I use the word “productive” as an excuse not to slow down for just a few seconds to witness the living, breathing, interconnected hallelujah that is present in all of creation means there’s something… out of whack. Fr. Richard Rohr’s meditation this morning was one of those reminders that I seem to need on a semi-regular basis. A reorienting. “Living in human-made environments, disconnected from the natural world, we have forgotten the intrinsic, basic connection of respect between ourselves and the world.” I was reminded this morning that my call as a child of God is not to produce–to somehow make my presence on this planet “worthwhile”–but to bear witness to the beauty of a God of connection and meaning and relationship. Probably the most productive thing I could do on my walks around the block this winter is to notice what my sisters and brothers (human, plant, and animal; animate and inanimate) are doing around me and how connected I already am to them.
One other such moment of realignment was on a recent personal spiritual retreat to Bluestone Farm, a ministry of the Sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit. I’ve spent the last three years in seminary in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived in a pristine suburban community in a seminary-owned apartment complex. My lawn was mown weekly by someone I never spoke to; the flower beds were planted by hard working people who were up hours before I even hit the snooze button on my alarm clock for the first time; a huge chunk of my time was spent in classrooms, in community worship, in the library, or otherwise removed from nature. At the suggestion of both priest supervisors in my two parishes, I scheduled a retreat only a month into my new placement. The retreat was unstructured and I was told by my spiritual director to “try to be as unproductive as possible” in the way I usually think of productivity. So I gave myself over to hours of walking through the woods for no reason, hours of sweating and weeding and harvesting in the gardens, hours of silence that gave God’s creation around me a chance to speak. What I discovered only 24 hours into a weeklong retreat was that I had been craving reconnection to soil and sweat and silence for three years while at seminary. I was craving the interconnectedness of God that I was too “busy” to notice while I was preoccupied with learning about God!
I am very thankful this morning for a God who understands that I need constant reorientation, need to be constantly reminded that I am not a child of God in a vacuum. Rather, I need dirt under my nails. I need to look up on my morning walk and see my breath in the air and the fog rolling in off the river, and to smell autumn leaves in the air and diesel fumes from buses full of kids off to learn new things and coffee brewing. And God knows that and makes it happen, even when I don’t know I need it.