By Sister Christine Parks
The weather took a turn today. We’ve only just entered into August and Mother Nature seems to be taking a time-out from what has felt like an unseasonably hot, sunny summer (by Michigan standards anyway) to remind us that we are headed toward another Autumn.
However I’m not writing summer off yet as we head deeper into August, even though I’ve already postponed my vacation plans first from June to September, and now even that’s been cancelled due to the vicissitudes of these unusual and difficult times. Since I don’t have a large RV or camper (or even a tent anymore) it’s hard to make plans that involve any significant travel or overnight stays anywhere. And I haven’t really started to think about making a retreat—the where, when and how to take some time away for prayer, in the midst of the pandemic.
But still there’s the view outside my window, sun dappled leaves dancing in the morning breeze. There’s the garden crying out for attention; there’s the hawk that swept by at shoulder height this morning, and the voracious hummingbird visiting the feeder; sunsets at Lake Michigan begging to be observed; and there are still a dozen or so nature areas and parks within a couple hour’s drive begging to be explored. All this and more—enough for at least one mini-vacation, and/or retreat, every day.
And so I am trying to reflect more deeply on a quote from the writer Iris Murdoch (in a recent posting from Gratefulness-Word for the Day): There is no beyond, there is only here, the infinitely small, infinitely great and utterly demanding present. If only I stood still long enough for a bit of re-creation today and today and today. If only I sat still long enough to touch and be touched by the holy today.
I’m hopeful and wondering if that can actually be enough for now, enough for this moment, enough for me, enough for all of us to learn from the teaching of this time in our shared experience of limitation, loss and vulnerability. Perhaps it’s enough to walk today with these words by activist-farmer, writer-poet, nature philosopher Wendell Berry:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound…
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
—Wendell Berry in “The Peace of Wild Things”
About the Author
Sister Christine Parks formerly served as a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph Leadership Team. She currently serves as a Spiritual Director, and occasional program presenter, with Transformations Spirituality Center in Kalamazoo. Her leisure activities include gardening, long walks in nature, reading, writing, attending plays and concerts, as well as museums.