Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Listening in Quiet Woods

In Illinois in midwinter the trees are bare and brown. The sky is generally gray, and on most days there isn’t enough sun to satisfy my cats. Without leaves in the way, I can see a mile over to the next hill where there are more brown trees. Brown doesn’t interest me much. I prefer green.

The woods are quiet as I walk through the woods, go around the bend where the creek has carved a path down into the land, and find a place to sit. Everything seems to be dead or frozen and waiting patiently for the warmth of spring. Yet when I look closer I see the forest’s patchwork of life. There are a dozen shades of brown in the trees and bushes, and the colors of lichen on the boulders slide from sage to yellow to orange. A slight breeze comes up along the creek bed and rustles the dry leaves. Squirrels emerge to dig for acorns. White-breasted nuthatches twitter in the trees, and a red-tailed hawk circles overhead checking the ground for food. From over the rise, a crow calls. A response comes from the other direction, and a laid-back conversation begins as each crow thinks before responding. Sometimes when I have walked through here, there has been an owl.

It’s helpful to have a physical place to go and listen for the sacred. Although I visit small, stone chapels and soaring cathedrals when I can, most often it’s in the woods where I feel a special presence. I don’t come here enough to sit and listen, but when I do, I realize how much of the living world I’ve missed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beginning - Kelsea Habecker

Kelsea wrote about her journey of listening to the northern wilderness of Alaska for the presence of nature and the nature of people to be revealed, for the gifts within them to be seen and drawn out of her. Kelsea’s focus on each hour of the day brings a journey back from my past when I paid attention and felt connected to the powerful movement of Life. Distractions of secondary importance tend to guide my days now, and unfortunately most of them are interesting and worthwhile.

Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we are doing the dishes, we should not think about other matters. We should be mindful only of washing the dishes. Hanh is speaking of being fully present to the moment, not just by listening and watching, but also by sharing ourselves with it. So when I am walking in nature, I should not be thinking about something else. I should listen to nature and let it speak to me as it wants.

Because of Kelsea’s words, I feel the pull to renew my journey by taking time each morning to open up to the day’s possibilities. Each night I want to reflect about the day, seeing where it has flowed, what insights were learned, and which people will need a compassionate word in the coming days.