Sacred Walk

The Sacred Walk on Sunday, August 20th was a climb up Maple Ridge from the school parking lot to the picnic table overlooking McCauley.  Walking in the woods is always a sacred experience, but becomes more so when it is an intentional walk. The reading for reflection was from Daily Nourishment from Abbey of the Arts

"You can start to really feel the shortening of the days in August in Ireland {or in the Adirondacks}. There is a subtle shift in the light and the air that leans towards autumn’s crispness and cooler days.  The energy in the world is changing.” Questions to ponder: Can you feel the shift of energy moving through you? Are you a little relieved now that the year is beginning its slow turning towards the comfort of darkness? What does the deepening light and shortening days invite you to embrace?—Christine Valters Paintner, PhD A Community Online Retreat ~ Sacred Seasons: A Yearlong Journey through the Celtic Wheel of the Year

The air has been cooler lately, and I could smell the beginning of autumn. I don’t know how todescribe it, maybe it’s the beginning of decaying vegetation, or maybe the earth has soaked in all the summer it can take so it is exuding a fullness or ripeness that invites change.  The path was wet from last night’s rain, and the leaves from last fall are still decomposing into the soil, fragments littering the trail here and there. Ahead of me, where the sun filtered through the leaves, were groups of dancing gnats. Everywhere there were sunbeams and the gnats would be in groups dancing, celebrating the light. Perhaps there is so much to celebrate because the light is diminishing and the gnats, aware of that fact, are embracing the shortening of day as they dance.  People have been saying how fast summer has gone, and how they are now cramming in boat rides or sitting outside on a warm evening.  If we don’t savor the small things, life just passes by in a blur.  So we, like the gnats, can still dance in the light. 

Farther up the trail, there was a large broken branch. That the branch—though dead with no hope of life—was being cradled by the nearby trees caught my attention. Perhaps the trees were its children? Or maybe just a community of trees holding that dead weight. The branch was suspended in the liminal space between the earth and the sky.  Reminds me of a lecture I heard by John Philip Newell in January. He was talking about the Irish Saint Brigid. She was said to have been born in the threshold of the house, the liminal space between inside and outside. The legends of her life are a melding of the pre-Christian and Ireland of the church. They celebrate her on Iona at the well of eternal youth at midsummer in the twilight - the pace between the day and the night, the space of imagination, in the twilight there are glimpses of those who have gone before, twilight where lovers meet, twilight that invites us to open ourselves to the imagination. Don’t you just love those stories that invite us out of our common every day world and ask more of us? That ask us to dare and dream? To put the old behind us and move into unknown realms. Behind the branch is an old rusted logging vehicle. Its parts are also decomposing, the metal turning to flakes of rust. Another symbol that life and death go together. “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…a time to be born and a time to die.” What am I being invited to let go of? What is no longer serving me or us? What is no longer serving the community of faith? And how do we let it go gently with dignity and honor the past while we embrace the future? There are many, many books written on this, but it seems that in our lives and in the life of the church, each person and community must decide what life is giving and what is not. 

At the top of a clearing, the destination, a table and chair await. Sit, relax, and let the woods speak. But then the wind stopped and the mosquitos came in, and with them another reminder of our minds when we sit down to meditate, how those pesky thoughts return like mosquitos buzzing around our ears, taking us down paths where we don’t need to go.  Keeping us from the silence. Sometimes the destination is not the objective, it’s fine to get somewhere, but the pathhas really been the teacher. The path, leading up or leading down, tripping us up on roots, or surprising us with unexpected delights. A tiny Indian Pipe sitting quietly by an downed log. My foot almost crushed  a tiny  mushroom, but its red caught my eye before my foot fell.  It was so bright, sittingthere in the mud, a new thing, birthed in the rainy night. Not something expected, but something delightful. 

A thing hidden becomes clear, a thought that was amorphous takes form and invites us to a new way. Or not, it may just be an experiment. A new way or a return of something that is inevitable. Turn, turn, turn until we come round right. Richard Rohr said: “union with God is really about awareness and realignment.” May we continue towalk and make it so.