Learning from The Land Paying Attention
We’ve had several lessons on what we might learn from The Land. Here’s one about how to learn from her. On my recent trip back to Iowa to care for my dad, I decided to stay in a “hermitage” at the Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Cedar Rapids. It was one of my parents’ favorite places for decades and Dad still loves it, of course. So, he was tickled that I stayed there. It is a special place. According to the dictionary, a hermitage is a secluded residence or private retreat. In this case it is a tiny stucco cottage that sits between an expanse of tall grass prairie and a deciduous woodland with a creek running alongside and small brook running through. For a week, I awoke there each morning to birdsong and bracing cool air. I returned each evening to catch the 7:30 frog concert and the 8:30 Barred Owl duet. And I meditated and I prayed. And I wrote. And I took long wandering walks around the 70-acre property, intentionally greeting and offering gratitude to trees and deer and grass and birds as I went. And being filled and restored, even in my weariness and sadness. In other words, at the edges of each day I lived as do back home in Colorado many days, in a more or less contemplative manner.
And I thought often about The Land and how she offers over and over again the opportunity to adopt a contemplative way of being with her. We, of course, come to the land to pray sometimes, but I imagine that in the language of Prairie it is certainly The Land’s fervent prayer that we slow down and let her hold us and teach us; that we set aside our plans and our busyness. It is her greatest gift to us. By far.
I believe at this point I’ll let the words of poet and author Christine Valters Paintner speak to you from her excellent book titled: Earth, Our Original Monastery. Here are a few excerpts. And I quote:
We live in what we might call an age of forgetting. We have forgotten who we are in relation to everything else: the creatures, the plants, the mountains, the forests, the oceans, one another, and even ourselves.
Contemplative practices help to offer an antidote to ways of living that have contributed to the destruction of Earth.
Our work as spiritual seekers and contemplatives is to see all of creation as woven together in holiness and to live this truth. In this loving act we begin to knit together that which has been torn; we gather all that has been scattered. Contemplative practice is a way to bring healing presence to the world. . . .
We emerge from the Earth matrix. The structures and rhythms of Earth are not external to our own thriving; rather, we arise from this holy sanctuary. It is vital to our own thriving. Creation as sacred space is the very foundation of our own existence. . . .
When we are committed to paying attention to this moment, we nurture our capacity to see the Holy active right here and now. We discover that the “kin-dom” is among us now, and we live as if this were true.
A timely and radical invitation for all who Care for Creation. Yes? Amen