I walk to the sounds of nature. Birdsong lifts my chin and chirps me along. Each step melds me deeper into the rhythms of life. Everyday tensions ease away. Naturalist John Muir said when we merge with nature, we receive more than we seek. I want to hear what Nature is whispering. And I agree with Thoreau. An early morning walk truly is a blessing for the whole day.
But lately, I am not hearing nature’s soft voice. My world feels too loud, too big, too heavy. Even bird chatter sounds like raucous screeching. Anxiety seeps in. I fall out of step feeling pulled down. Under my feet, the scorching earth kicks up oppressive heat. I long for morning coolness but it is not there. I am walking, searching, and listening but unsure of what I am receiving, even less sure of what I seek. The peace I have felt on my walks seems be evaporating like the morning mist in the rising sun. I am misaligned, less connected, and out of tune, but I go on. Seekers will continue to seek. I walk on. If Nature pulls down, she also recreates.
Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating, and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another. John Muir
In the mid-summer heat, I cling to the shaded side of my street, passing rows of houses with manicured lawns, circling around the stilled pond and back again. In one hour, I can make three loops on this elliptical path before it gets too hot. It is my orbit. Planet Gloria. Today I feel alone in this orbit. The pull of the sacred is distant and faint. Still I go on.
A Soul Walking Home
A Soul Walkin’ Home is a little gem of a book. Author Philip Beyer gives us snapshots of people on the fringe of life-changing options. Stuck in destructive habits, they feel life’s downward pull. But things happen. Seemingly random pinpoints of light give way to awakenings. A chin is lifted, tilted in a new direction to be guided homeward. So, while completing my second orbit, lost in my own downward spiral, this book came to mind and I wondered. Is my soul stuck in a fringe orbit, seeking but getting nowhere? Am I listening but not hearing? Alone in my orbit, I think of the ancient Hebrews who revered the sacred but were kept from the inaccessible Holy of the Holies. Like a character is Beyer’s book, I am just a soul walking home, a lost wanderer, stuck in an orbit, circling and circling.
So, I changed my orbit. Simple as that. On my last go-around, I chose a different direction, one that edged me along a narrow strip of woods that separates our houses from briny backwater. There I saw rows and rows of tall feathery zebra and saw grasses sprayed out like stilled fountains. I have seen these before but this morning was different. There, sparkling in the grasses I saw the thing that lifted my chin and tugged. Starlight. Right here on Earth.
Shimmering like diamonds polished to perfection were dew drops dotting each blade of grass. Numbering in the millions, each jeweled leaf came to life. They flickered like twinkling stars in the night sky. I stepped in for a closer look and found myself surrounded by pinpoints of light. I drank in each lustrous droplet. They quenched my parched soul. And this morning, as the angst of the world closed in on me, this simple thing of nature, something as slight and insignificant as a tiny drop of water, brought relevance to my world.
I felt like I was led into Nature’s Holy of the Holies. And how appropriate that the smallest drop of water, the vessel of life can also reflect all the good in my world. Laughingly, I recalled Olaf, a comical yet pivotal character in the movie Frozen, who spills nonsensical random trivia, comes up with the relevant theme of the move: water has memory. In it is the gift of life.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17
I began to string together the orbs of life that brighten my world. Overtaken by the vast shadowy expanses of this world, they can be easily forgotten, but they shine with simple lighted truths, strung together like souls on earth, reflecting the same light. Everyday kindnesses numbering as the stars began to surround me. Yesterday it was a kind lady who saw me balancing an armful of stuff in the CVS checkout lane and invited me to go ahead of her. A kind gentleman holding the door for me. Daily orbs. Sanctus of life. Like Beyer’s book, each pinpoint of light, each droplet of dew was another chin lifted homeward. I began to string together my own Holy of the Holies: necklaces of devotion, forgiveness, and healing. They are too many to tell. Here are a few. I know you can begin to string together your own.
The Sanctus of Devotion
This is a story that is continuously played out in retirement communities around the world. Widows and widowers find new attachments while still honoring their former married lives. I once read that newly formed couples in their senior years are in tune to the needs of the other, show acts of devotion, more so than when they were young and forming permanent relationships. This is a story of that kind of devotion.
My dad spent the last three years of his long life in a nursing home. He was fine one day, an active widower enjoying all the activities a retiree could do in Sun City Arizona. But it all changed in one moment. A sudden stroke left him paralyzed on one side of his body. Once a proud and independent man, his bodily functions now required the assistance of others. So humbling.
My daughter and I, living in Southern California, visited him each month and on holidays. But this was one memorable visit. The image clings. We arrived late. Standing at his doorway, we stopped short of entering. The scene before us was so tender, so dear. It was dinner time and there was a shortage of staff. My dad’s friend Rosalie was trying to feed him. Rosalie, also a widow, suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. They met playing shuffleboard and soon found that they enjoyed each other’s company. The friendship was strong enough for Rosalie to sell her duplex condo and move into a small home behind my dad’s house, where they could easily walk across the yard to check up on one another. For the next few years, they helped each other. My dad helped Rosalie with household repairs and Rosalie often walked over with dinner. For outings they enjoyed walking to Furr’s cafeteria where they would always order the “Delite” (half-portions) menu. Luckily, Rosalie was nearby when Dad collapsed and quickly called for an ambulance who sped him to the hospital. He would never return to his home. For the next three years, Rosalie became Dad’s daily visitor at the nursing home. She would wheel him outside and even made the long walk, pushing his wheelchair all the way to Furr’s cafeteria. We thought of her as Dad’s angel.
On the day of that visit, we just watched for a few minutes, just out of sight. Rosalie’s hands often shake uncontrollably and that day, she was making every effort to steady her hand with the spoonful of mashed potatoes with other shaking hand. My dad, paralyzed on one side of his face, was making every effort to keep his mouth open to receive his nourishment. It was a beautiful humbling scene of utter devotion. Holy gifts from above. Two hearts reflecting the same light. Sanctus.
Healing and Forgiveness: The way of love is a better way.
Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister Miriam were very young Romanian Jews sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There endured brutal medical experiments often without anesthesia, at the hand of Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death. They were injected with germs and chemicals, resulting is horrendous side effects. Close to death from the experimentation on her young frail body, she survived after the camp was liberated by the Russians in 1945. Having lost her entire family, Eva traveled to Israel. There she married an American and lived out her life in Indiana. She devoted her life to giving talks on the horrors of the Nazi regime and even led tours in Auschwitz. She spoke of forgiveness, yes, even forgiving the unforgivable. Then, in 2015, she publicly forgave Osker Groening who was dubbed the Bookkeeper of Auschwitz. Eva’s message to the world was to make the wrong things right, making the world better is a better plan.
Groening was 94 when he asked for forgiveness.
Eva hugged him.
A Holy gift. Sanctus.
He was beaten, shot in the head, and left for dead. It was May of 1961. John Lewis dared to challenge and reveal the evils of segregated society, one that lawfully protected “whites only” areas. He thought he would not live to see another day, but somehow he survived that brutality. Years later, he was visited by the one of the men who had attacked him. This man, now in his 70s, accompanied by his son approached John. “He said ‘Mr. Lewis, I am one of the people who beat you. I’d been a member of the Klan. I want to apologize. Will you accept my apology? Will you forgive me?'”
Tearfully, Lewis did, with these words. The way of love is a better way.
An Unlikely Connection
A black woman, walking down the street in her city, found a dollar bill and something inside of her made her think it was a lucky dollar bill. With little money to support herself and her young daughter, she did something totally out of character. She felt a strong desire to take this lucky dollar bill to buy a lottery ticket. And with that ticket, she won $100. She could have used that money to buy food or clothing, but instead, again, she did something unusual. She decided to give it to a police officer she read about in the newspaper. This officer was in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound while on duty, fighting crime in her city. This officer was touched by her generosity, and even more so when he learned that she had lost a child to inner city violence. He created a fund in her name. In a short time, the fund accumulated over $10,000. That fund is still growing.
But money is not the message of the tale. It is the connectedness between the office and the woman that is the forever story. Two lights reflecting the same light.
From the mouths of babes, perhaps, come the best gems of all. My six year old grandson, Lucas, was intrigued by a photo on my table. It was a picture of us taken during his first year of life. He kept looking at the image of me holding him in my arms. After studying it and studying it, and alternately looking at me, he said as kindly as he could, “You grew up since then.” (Yes, while aging may not be holy, laughter is.) Sanctus.
Service to Others: Making a Difference
Armies of individuals across the land saw the need for masks, especially for our brave first responders and our health workers. So, one by one and stitch by stitch, across the world, people got creative tearing up bras, drapes, umbrellas, and you-name-it to repurpose into protective face masks to be sent where needed. Distribution networks were mobilized. The essential masks went out, filling the gaps until full production of the masks could be in full swing. Sanctus in action.
Compassion: Feed the Birds
From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to present day Toy Story, Walt Disney Animation Studio has produced over 60 animated feature films. The music from these classics children’s films formed the soundtrack of our youth. Yet one song, one heartfelt song, was Walt Disney’s favorite. It has been said that Mr. Disney would walk occasionally into the studio and simply ask, “Play it.” He would then sink into a chair listening to his favorite song, “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins. He was often seen wiping away tears when the words to the last stanza were sung for him.
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
“Feed the birds,” that’s what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies
All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares
Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.
And my eyes swallowed up each light, sending nourishment to my inner sanctum, where seeds planted before my birth lay in wait, seeking, and always seeking the light to lead me homeward . .
. . . chin up.
Beyer, Philip. 2019. A Soul Walking Home. Covenant Books. Murrells Inlet, SC.
https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/john-muir-quotes accessed on 7.15.2020
https://www.bing.com/search?q=lyrics+to+feed+the+birds&cvid=28afe797e5c347608be47df994f9c987&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=U531 accessed on 7.17.2020https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9444220/holocaust-survivor-nazi-doctor-dies/ accessed on 7.28.2020