A photo I took during my morning prayer was published recently on ignatianspirituality.com.
Lately, as I’ve been walking on the trail near our house, under the guise of exercising the dog, I’ve noticed the dry leaves. The ones that have been “released” from their service to the tree. I’ve watched them fall from the canopy while I walk, I’ve listened to the crunch of the leaves under my feet as I plod forward. Amused, I’ve enjoyed the times that Jasper thinks that the animated leaves, caught on a breeze, are little animals to be hunted and tracked, only to find that, when he finally catches up to one, it is just a dry leaf.
Jasper doesn’t seem to mind. Once he realizes that it is just a dry leaf, he moves on, his nose directing him onward to the next thing. He continues to trot along, his head to the wind, waiting for the next scent, or leaf, that will catch his attention and lead him to something new.
Just a dry leaf. And yet, just a few weeks ago, that leaf was working very hard to sustain the tree. To help to feed it before the cold winter ahead. To stretch itself out to the sunlight, providing the tree with needed growth and life.
At times, I think we can all feel like one of those dry leaves. Our energy spent. Our hope lost. We’ve given all that we can, and we can only hope that our efforts to sustain have provided growth and energy for the times to come.
I think it can feel that way when we send our children off to college. I’ve been contemplating this since I’m now living with an empty nest. And yet, changes in my life of late have given me so much hope. I’ve started painting. I’m finding time to enjoy the changing seasons and the spectacular autumn colors. The empty nest is agreeing with me.
Now that our kids are both off at college, I’ve been able to enjoy a bit of freedom. I’ve allowed the winds to carry me, just a little bit more than I’ve been able to before. Like Jasper, I’m looking to the next thing. Today, I reflect on how much of my energy has been focused on sustaining our children. Until now, I’ve expressed sympathy and love when they’ve been bruised and battered by forces outside themselves. I’ve held them tenderly when they feel as if they are hanging by a thread. I’ve watched them stretch and grow and begin to sustain themselves, as if they have put down roots and are now creating the seedling of life in their own world.
My love and support of my kids is still very necessary. It will continue forever. As I watch them stretch and grow, reaching for the sunlight, I realize that I am so proud of these young adults. Each day is a new opportunity for growth, for a toddler, or a teenager, or a college student, or an empty nester, or a grandparent, or an elder. Each time I am aware of this, through the grace of God, I am astounded, and grateful, and aware of being fully alive.
Today, I give thanks for the spectacular autumn that I am experiencing. May I continue to sustain and to let go. May I continue to appreciate and to live fully.
I invite you to do the same.
All good giving and every perfect gift comes from above.
It has been a strange spring where I live, here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. One day, it might be 85 degrees, the next, 51. Or, we might have drought-like conditions for a time, only to be deluged with 5 straight days of cloudy skies and rain. Or at times, just the threat of rain will be enough to dampen spirits and cancel plans.
I was talking to a guy who was at our house making a service call, and, as invariably happens with people who cross our paths, talk turned to the recent weather. At the time, the past few days had been “perfect” early summer days. Mild temperatures, brilliant sunshine, no humidity. Truly a gift. I couldn’t help but delight in the clear blue skies and sunshine, and in the glory of being outside. I even mentioned that the recent rains were a bit much for me. And he responded, “Sometimes, we need the rain.”
It was such a simple statement, and it caught me off guard.
Sometimes we do need the rain. The gift of water, of roots saturated with hope, and of the sound of raindrops on the thirsty leaves of the trees can bring an awareness of the beauty of growth and abundance. The grass grows like crazy, almost out of control. Birds and squirrels find so many sources of water, and are satisfied.
I wake this morning to heavy fog, with dew dripping off of every leaf and branch in the yard. It reminds me of a day on the beach a few years ago, the one beach day that fit into our crazy summer schedule that year. We were going to the beach, no matter what the weather. The “partly cloudy” skies at home, a couple of hours drive from the beach, did not hint at the fact that the sandy shore was socked in by a deep, heavy fog. As we unloaded the car at the shore, we kept saying to each other, “It’ll burn off in no time.”
I’m sure you can guess the outcome of the weather that day. Not great. And yet… with a slight shift in awareness and perspective, the day became grace-filled. I sat on the sand and looked out at the very still water of the ocean, but I couldn’t see very far. At times, I could hear the low horn from a boat in the distance. Or maybe the horn came from the lighthouse; I couldn’t really be sure. I couldn’t even tell where the fog began. And yet… I listened to the invitation of God, and closed my eyes, I could feel the moisture on my skin from being inside this cloud that sits on the earth. Focusing in on this feeling shifted my awareness.
It’s like a verse that I love from the book of Sirach: “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High and covered the earth like a mist.” It is the turn to this awareness, the awareness of the Holy Spirit blessing us with grace, and the faith that grace is touching us even when we can not see it or feel it, that allows us to open our hearts even more to the possibility of grace.
Sometimes, we need the rain. And sometimes, we need to change our perspective in order to find the gifts in a difficult situation. God is always inviting us to this, whether it be in deciding to leave a job after a long discernment, in the death of a loved one, in the hurt of a pained and difficult relationship.
When the time for silence comes, I ask you to take up your position for prayer, and then, having asked the help of the Holy Spirit, to be content and wait patiently, expectantly, lovingly, longingly. Try to realize that this all you can do for yourself. God must do the rest. See yourself as the parched ground looking upwards waiting patiently for the rain to fall. You can only wait.
– Fr Roger Schultz of Taize
Lord, send my roots rain.