One of my spiritual disciplines this Lent is simply to be present – to see, hear and pay attention to what’s right in front of me.
Here in Ontario, we enjoyed a stretch of three consecutive warm sunny days before our latest snowfall (minor in our city, major in many other places).
I decided to use that spring-like window to pay attention to all the signs of spring I could find on my morning walks and in two drives out into the country.
On my morning walks through Rockway Gardens and environs, I hoped to glimpse some snowdrops. I didn’t find any, but I discovered one bed of pansies with green leaves and a few brave blue/violet flowers.
I watched a squirrel rushing across the grass and up a tree trunk. I listened to a chatty bunch of LBB’s (little brown birds). I noticed lots of dogs being walked, strollers parked in driveways, a young boy riding a tricycle, and a basketball placed near a net on a front lawn. Trash previously covered by snow skittered across lawns and streets in the wind. And a winter’s worth of cigarette butts littered the ground near the side door of an office building.
Our drives showed us the Conestogo River running high near the St. Jacobs dam, and the soil turned over in various fields. We passed many buggies filled with Old Order folks taking advantage of the relative warmth to conduct business or go visiting.
But perhaps the surest signs of spring came with the blue pails attached to maple trees in small burgs like Hawkesville and in sugar bushes all over the countryside. As Sam got close to snap a photo, he heard the sap running fast.
Of course the serious potholes on unpaved country roads also heralded the spring!
Early signs of spring – even potholes! – nourish my spirit and hold out the promise of new growth and hope. A hymn we sang in church last Sunday invites God to “alert our hearts to apprehend the silent witnesses you send” (From “O God of mystery and might” in Hymnal: A Worship Book #130).
Shoots of spring bulbs are silent witnesses from nature which speak loudly and hopefully to my inner spirit.
As Richard Rohr puts it in a recent post: “Every day we have opportunities to reconnect with God through an encounter with nature, whether an ordinary sunrise, a starling on a power line, a tree in a park, or a cloud in the sky. This spirituality …almost entirely depends on our capacity for simple presence…” (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, March 6, 2018).
Recently I’ve been sitting in my 10th floor study for 15 minutes each morning watching the light increase. Or, if I’m not early enough for that, I time my morning pause to overlap with the golden hour – when the low rays of the sun reflect off an apartment complex in the near distance or temporarily color the evergreens orange.
The effect of the sun at this time of day always leads me to worship. As the Psalmist writes:
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world…. Psalm 19 v. 1-4 , NRSV
I can almost imagine those sun-drenched trees and buildings worshiping too! (See my blog post #9, Welcoming the Dawn).
Question for Reflection:
What early signs of spring have you seen (perhaps between snowstorms!) in recent weeks? How has your spirit responded?
Next Week: Music for Lent