[A note: I started this post on June 14, 2009, and finally was able to finish it today. That explains the time differences, if anyone would have noticed them!]
I hope I never forget those afternoons last May when we were going without air conditioner. (We mostly made it until June, by the way, but I’m not strong enough to do without when it’s getting up over 90 degrees every day!) I’d be trying to get the girls down for a nap, and it seemed so hot, and just a little breeze would come in through the open window, and it felt so cool and refreshing…how I praised God for those little breezes!
I had occasion to remember those afternoons yesterday while I was helping my father-in-law shovel dirt/tree shavings from a pile the size of our living room into wheelbarrows to deliver to various gardens around the house. It was too hot, and just the time of day when we probably should have been inside, or at least in the shade, but my father-in-law doesn’t believe in leaving for later work that can be finished now, so I was out helping. And here and there we would get a cool breath of wind, and well, I would almost fall down in rapturous praise.
Silently, of course.
Because my father-in-law, though respectful, is not a religious man. (Unless you count the cult of LSU in some way, which I do not.) He does, however, have a great appreciation for nature. He and I share a yearning for mountains and forests, wild things as yet untamed. He brings what he can of this nature into his gardens, where he spends hours digging, potting, transplanting, mulching, and doing all those little things which I hope I’ll learn as I try to grow my own little patches of paradise. It is not worship, I don’t think, but there is certainly sacrifice involved! For me, as I think I’ve said before, gardening can be a very spiritual experience, a chance to slow down and appreciate the wonderous creation God has put on this earth for us. I had to wonder, as I tried not to swoon from joy during one of those welcome breezes, what does my father-in-law feel out here?
Because it seems to me that if there is anywhere that it should be easy to meet God, it must be in nature. Of course you can meet Him in the Eucharist, in other people, in great art; but I think that in these sort of places, you more often have to be looking. God can give you the flash of knowing, like Merton on the street corner in Louisville, but I have to think that experience would be hard to take when you are not disposed to try and see other people as your brothers and sister. Out in His creation (as opposed to our concrete creations – there’s another post!), where He made the rules, there are fewer hangups – no race, to gender, no strange clothing or hair colors. No maniacal drivers to dodge. No repetitive, square, bland, (and did I mention repetitive?) buildings. Everything sings the praise and glory of our God, every creature joins in extolling how wondrously it is made, how carefully its designs fit together with its surroundings so that all survive and thrive. It is a simple kind beauty, in the way, I think, that we speak of God as “simple”.
So standing there, wondering these things, shovel in hand, mother-in-law’s straw hat on my head, those little breaths of wind brought me more refreshment than relief for my steaming body. They carried to me, for those whom I love who doubt, a little breath of hope.