I am a recovering Type-A personality. I used to go from one point to another not stopping to smell the roses along the way. Then I met my husband, and he is quite the opposite (is there such a thing as a Type Z?). He stops at every turn. Just last week, while walking along Cabell Marsh at Finley Wildlife Refuge, I noticed a dead mouse, and he said, “Oh, I need to take a picture of that and put it on the www.iNaturalist.org website, they will know all about what kind of mouse this is.” (By the way, the experts say it is a Pacific Jumping Mouse). My sons have inherited the same gene and/or were nurtured into this skill of attentiveness through their father. We go on walks and hikes, and they are usually behind me “lollygagging” (isn’t that the coolest word?) along as I push forward, getting my steps in, and achieving my goal.
Today starts our practice of 40 days of feasting on God’s natural world! (Hazardous smoke from west coast wildfires made me delay because I did not want to encourage our west coasters to walk outside.)
Here is an example of walking with attentiveness from this morning:
I listened with my ears to the sounds around me. Birds were chirping everywhere. How rarely do I notice their song.
I looked up at the blue sky and the wispy white clouds dancing out of the way to make way for the golden sun. Then birds flew through the picture of that sky, and I attended to their flight. Later, I saw a blue-colored Western Scrub-Jay as he swooped down from one tree to another. Where was he going? What was he doing?
I savored the green leaves on the trees starting their wonderful turn to yellows, oranges, and reds. (Fall will be a great time for this practice in the northern hemisphere, but spring is just as spectacular for my southern hemisphere friends.)
I smelled the blackberries on their way out of peak ripeness. The lavender is past its bloom but, oh, what a heavenly fragrance lingers after the beautiful purple is gone!
I felt the breeze softly against my cheeks. I sensed the fall coolness chasing away the summer air.
Then God brought me to a lovely memory of my first time overseas. I was a nanny to two small children in a fifth-floor apartment in the heart of the bustling city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. But one day, I ventured out far from the city center to a hill overlooking the beautiful, green rolling hills beyond, and my soul breathed a sigh of life-giving peace. I echoed St. Augustine’s true words that “Nature is the staircase by which we climb to the knowledge of its author.”
I pray this practice draws you closer to our Author. This Pray as You Go Walking with God meditation might help. While walking with it in Central Oregon this summer, God brought resolution and healing to my soul regarding something that had plagued me for six months. It is also available on the Pray as You Go App under “Retreats and Series.” For those of you who cannot get out in nature, looking at pictures of nature and imagining yourself there can be life-giving as well. Also, these September contemplations with Imagine might be helpful.
Recently, I read the classic book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, about Annie Dillard’s observations around her nearby creek in the 1970s. It opened my eyes to the world of nature around me, and it might do that for you too. It is not a faith-based book, but can be a staircase to our Author!
St. Gregory the Great once said that “Wisdom is born of wonder.” So wonder away for the next 40 days and see where God might take you.