My mind has been swimming the last few weeks. Some of the reasons are good, others not. No matter the cause, I have been distracted and unfocused much of the time. Now we come to Lent, and I remember that the word is from a Latin root that means "slow." I can hear my college French professor reminding me to speak "lentement" so that my pronunciation would be clearer. Staring out over the water at high tide, appreciating the silence and calm, I'm reminded that I need this in my life. My prayer for these 40 days is to focus outside myself and live "lentement."
At a recent women’s retreat, we shared an intimate communion. A soft light bathed the bread and pitchers in the chapel at St. Christopher’s, where we could see the beach scene beyond. I had the privilege of serving communion - of offering peace to fellow believers. I enjoyed seeing each familiar face pass my way. There was the friend I walked the beach with and the one with whom I shared laughs and late night talks as roommates. We shared secrets from the soul, and I made a new friend with whom I have lunch at work with now. Some of us did latin dance together, letting go to be silly and sweaty. What can I say? What happens at St. Christopher’s stays at St. Christopher’s.
Many of us had to move heaven and Earth to be able to attend. I always try to make the effort, though, because I gain so much from the bonding with other women. These weekends create space for moments of holy communion, for us to share our broken bodies and our imperfect paths to peace. The caregivers who break themselves into so many pieces to care for friends and family, pause to receive care. When women gather like this, I have found magic always happens.
If you wish to know the Divine, feel the wind on your face
and the warm sun on your hand. - Buddha
While showing many of my South Africa photos to an exceedingly patient friend, I was struck again by my complete immersion into the natural world while there. Giraffes, rhinos and baby rhinos, impala, kudu, wart hogs, zebra and so on could be just around the next turn in the road. While sleeping in tents at camp, we woke at the very first rays of dawn to an outpouring of sound from birds, baboons, monkeys, elephants, and more that I couldn't even begin to identify. We ate our meals outside. We spent the days outside.
Back in my warm, safe home, sitting in front of my computer at work, I realize how much I miss that connection to nature. I watch the cardinals at my bird feeder and see the egrets and herons in the marsh on my runs. But here I'm lost in a world of emails and schedules, of blue screens rather than blue sky.
As we begin the Lenten journey, I'm choosing to walk the path outdoors, finding more time to be outside rather than inside, listening for the sounds of the earth, the smell of the rain, the touch of the wind. It's not just good therapy, it's holy listening.