Following the Sun and Other Journeys

water beaded on hostaIt’s a soggy, warm June morning. During the night, a pelting rainstorm ran over us like a speeding train, leaving our yard fully drenched. This morning, remnants of the storm are clearly visible. New blades of grass have brazenly spiked through tiny slits in the sidewalk. Morning Glories, looking like fluted stemware are glistening with rainwater. At their tipping point, they spill out their heavy loads.

water on blades of grassAnd I see Mother Nature’s sparkling jewels–droplets of water bubbling on velvety blue green leaves blades of grass, looking like liquid diamonds, her necklaces of life on grand display.  Dawn’s breath is fresh and clean.

That prior evening, we ventured outside to grab the last bit of blue sky before the inevitable storm. Unexpected guests soon arrived.

geese in backyard                                                                                                                                                           A gaggle of Canada Geese sauntered by, perhaps to enjoy a brisk walk before the rain. Continuing a casual yet steady pace, they shuffled single file, the gander’s attentive eyes on us. A few minutes later, they returned in the other direction and then, to our surprise, back again for another curtain call. I read that they walk to find new food sources, but I like to think these return trips acknowledge us as friendly neighbors. After all, we share this space and time, and perhaps in their minds, coexistence is tolerable. We also share something else . . . migration.

white airliner wing on top of sea clouds
Photo by C. Cagnin on

Some refer to us as snowbirds. In January as the earth’s rotation around the sun brings ice and snow to the northern hemisphere, we fly to our southern home in Florida. Come spring, we return. Likewise, Canada Geese also make these round-trip flights. Weather permitting, they can fly 1500 miles in one day**. I imagine their flight path paralleling our own from the pinelands of Southern New Jersey to Central Florida, and back again. Interestingly, thousands of species of animals migrate throughout their lives. Migrations can be search for food, water or the instinct to follow the sun. Life on this planet is a quest for nourishing water and light.

Here, in my home near the New Jersey shore, I see water and light playing their dual roles. I am inspecting my soggy garden on this wet June morning. Already a bright sun is yellowing up the sky. We are nearing the summer solstice, the season of the sun. I begin my early morning garden inspection.

potter's benchMy summer garden routine is task oriented. My potters’ bench is armed with hand rakes, trowels, watering cans, shovels, various fertilizers and bags of potting soil; all designed to protect the rhythms of plant life. A barrel full of questions become right-now issues. Are the pots draining properly? Will the extra moisture invite infestations? Is the soil nutrient-rich? Overcrowding? Too much sun or too little?

The amount of sunlight is critical both for sun-loving plants as well as the shade seekers. I walk outside multiple times of the day, looking for changes in sun patterns, which can change from year to year. Not having yet reached their full growth, my trees branch out, casting new shadows. My summer perennials respond by leaning toward the sun, migrating in inches, not miles.

I think more about migration. Having lived in four different states, I must have regained some of our ancestral nomadic habits. Had I more decades in front of me, I would consider a year’s extended residence in another country. I like journeying. Yet I am aware that not all journeys can be measured in inches or miles. The most critical journeys for me, migrations of thought, have been the most transformational.

My spiritual journey is perennial. As with the Canada geese walking back and forth, I sometimes return places I’ve been to revisit lessons learned. How grateful I am for a patient guiding light that steadily emits a path forward, with glowing embers pulling me through the lurking shadows.

My soul is not nomadic. It has a home, but I didn’t always know that. As Thomas Merton so wisely said, “God is right with us and in us and out of us and all through us, but we have to go on journeys to find him.”

geese flying south

I don’t mind.
I will take that journey again and again.


See also:

More on Migration
The whale that migrates the longest is the Gray Whale, about 12,500 miles.
 The insect that migrates the longest is the desert locust, about 2,800 miles.
 The butterfly that migrates the longest is the Monarch, up to 2,000 miles.
 The land animal that migrates the longest is the caribou, about 700 miles.
 Bees do not migrate.  Rotating within the hive, they keep warm throughout winter.

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