I came to the river knowing that the season would be over. Still I brought the picking bucket, just in case. As expected, these bushes are long done. I’d last picked weeks ago, before my birthday.
The ducks are here, quietly going about their paddle. Because I have been focussed on the blackberry banks, I hadn’t noticed right away. It’s as if they're ok with my presence as long as I don’t look at them. I can see subtle shifts to attention as soon as I spot them even though I have simply turned my head and have made no sound. It’s as if they sense me looking.
I had not anticipated that the bees would still be flying in and out of the flowers. They seem bigger, plumper this late in the season.
It’s not actually quiet here, I realize. Airplanes fly overhead, North Road is right there to my left. Despite today being Labour Day there is a lot of traffic going by.
The first day I came down here this year I saw a big, beautiful dragonfly. It’s the only one I’ve seen in all my years of coming here. It felt like a gift and, looking back, a symbol of this moment of shift.
Between that moment and this I realized that I had come to the other side of something. I saw it like a vision. I was standing at the base of a hill, the mouth of a small valley. Having been for two years in a different place, a liminal space, I just stood there, listening, smelling, observing. The scent was a curious blend of dry ground and vegetation. Not unfamiliar, yet I had not been exactly here before. Ahead, not a clear path, but a definite way. What is this place?
Remembering the lesson of wayfinding (thanks Dan Hines) I turned around to see where I’ve come from. Behind me stretched a broad desert. I recognized it as the place I’ve been for the past two years. Liminal space; time between what is and what is next. And stretching across the desert a row of lotus flowers, a lush path of stepping stones.
I thought back to a previous vision I’d had, one of looking out into a barren desert that I needed to cross. Each time I took a step forward a lotus flower would bloom to receive my foot. Lotus are water plants. So this path of watery abundance had walked me across the desert. Here I was now on the other side. With this realization, I knew it was time for me to move forward to a new path, step into a new moment.
I have now given notice that I would be leaving the communications work at the Centre for Christian Studies which has also escorted me across the liminal space. After Paul died, I didn’t know what I would be doing. This position has offered me a creative and supportive place. I never imagined leaving after such a short time, but here I am. Despite being sad to say good-bye to this place I love and a great collegial team, it feels right. I will be done here before winter comes.
I hold such gratitude. While it was shitty to watch my husband suffer and die, today life is again full and abundant. Do I experience loneliness? Yes, at times aching and visceral. And I have deepening and accepting friendships. Times of doubt? Absolutely. But not deep doubt. Deep down I trust the moment, trust the Divine, trust even failures, which teach me what things in me need healing and what actually matters. I have learned things that are important to me, and that are important for me to nurture in myself like compassion, kindness, joy.
The way into the hills is obscured. But I step forward sure in the continuing unfolding.
Here at the river I’ve lost track of time. I usually only come to this place when the blackberries are ripe for picking. But the fruits of this place are still here for me now. Thanks be to God. The longer I sit quietly, the more I notice. Tiny dragonflies, a bead of water on a blade of grass, my own need to be here.
I’m having a hard time leaving, even though I know it’s time to go. Much like the time I’ve spent with CCS, it has nourished me. And I know this place will still be here, just as the connections at CCS won’t be severed, simply shifted. As I gather my things and stand up to leave, amazingly another large dragonfly glides by.
As I step into the river, my body becomes like the water, fluid and languid.
The river has changed again. Of course I have too, my edges also worn by the streams of life. I have to find a new way to enter. I suspect people find that with me too. A spot where the currents aren't too deep and swift. A place to ease in, get your footing first.
I hadn't been thinking about how it smells here. But realized as soon as I arrived how much it is part of the whole experience. I breath deep, filling my soul with the familiar blend of water and plant loam.
In my continued quest to get one good shot of the bees in the flowers I wander over to the bank down aways. And once again God shows me something amazing that I didn't anticipate. Turning my head to look at the flowers I am caught by the spectacular sight of a brilliant dragonfly perched on a stem of grass. Amazing.
The blackberry season has only started and I go home with only a taste of what will emerge over the next few weeks. Every season, year after year, this place fills me.
Thanks be to God.
Moments are simply the brief passings of time as we move through our lives. Most are here and gone, but a scattered few hold our attention. While all of living is sacred, there are those scattered brief moments that particularly speak to our hearts, enrich our lives or reveal unexpected beauty. Scattered moments. Sacred moments.
Since I last wrote in this space, critical parts of my life have changed. My beloved spouse died. He was a life partner, a loving and beautiful man who brought joy to many through his music and his kindness. Now I navigate what life will be without him. At the same time I find myself unemployed as my work contract ends. Two major losses. Endings and openings.
While it’s hard to see, I trust the sacred embedded in these moments. If Paul must die, let it be surrounded in the beauty of love and gentled by care. I slept by his side every night until the end, held his hand as his final gentle breath slipped into the universe. All he ever asked for in his last moments of consciousness was his beloved child. And Finn was there. We did nothing but be together in those last days, as our friends came and went, saying their good-byes.
Many people have commented on the bad timing of the end of the work I was doing. But I assure them with all sincerity that it is all good. It feels like God is giving me this moment to really feel the emptiness so that I can find the most life-giving way to fill it. What is it that I am truly called to be doing in this world? How can my particular gifts be used to heal brokenness, uplift beauty, bring forth justice? How do I offer myself?
It was a long winter. Snow fell like we have not seen for 20 years in this generally temperate place. After which we had months of grey days and rain. But today spring is definitely here. Clear blue sky. Buttercups and dandelions brighten the green. I can see moths fluttering through the grass. A neighbour has hung laundry out to dry. Laughter from the school yard floats through my open window.
It is not yet clear to me what I will be doing going forward. Yet I know that as sure as spring comes, life will unfold in unexpected and, I believe, beautiful ways. As Julian of Norwich reminds us, “all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Not that there will never be more sorrow, never be pain or disappointment. But that the scattered, sacred moments will reveal themselves. And strung together they will uplift and cradle my one precious life.
Thanks be to God.
musings of someone spiritual and oddly religious
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