In the training I am taking for spiritual direction we have week long residencies. My group has been blessed to hold our residency at Five Oaks near Paris Ontario. Mid way through our week of intense learning we have a 24 hour stretch of silent retreat. While everything in me screams against such a colosal waste of time in the midst of learning I have come to accept it. Perhaps I have even come to appreciate it.
Today was that day of silence and along with my other usual protests against silence it was a day which I did not want to be silent and alone. As is often the case though, when I surrender to the will of the spirit of the divine, it all worked well and the pieces came together to create and rich, restful and restorative day.
Part of that day was a walk in the woods. Come with me for a while. Enjoy the slide show on my Facebook page and hear the tale of my journey in the woods.
My walking poles slid nicely into the earth which is freshly wet with rain after a along summer of drought. There was a slight squish of mud under my feet as I walked the toe path along the bank of Whiteman’s Creek. The autumn sun was warm and the air held a slight mist from the heavy dampness of shorter days. I looked forward to the trail ahead.
I’ve walked this trail a few times. Enough to know the basic geography and feel confident of it’s ending and the safety of it’s depths. It is well maintained with bridges and wooden footpaths to cross the wetland areas.
As I moved through the tall trees and pushed golden rod aside from the path I could hear the babbling of the water. It was reasuring and reminded me of the constant flow of life. When I moved away from the water into a thicket I was suddenly reminded I should have worn long pants. The golden rod had given way to raspberries and while in summer the fruit would have been wonderful, now new vines twisted across the path making it a little more difficult to move and picked at my flesh.
In this more open area of the woods I could feel the heat of the sun on my face but with it came a viel of spider webs. At first I resisted them and tried to wipe them away but that became too cumbersome so I finally decided to just let them cover me until I emeged. Then I would wipe them away.
My feet found their way over rocks and moss, over twisted tree roots and along a bank which had given way slightly. I was glad of the grip of my walking sticks.
There were flowers in the path. The flowers of early fall but because there has been no frost they hold their colour and splendor. The leaves have only been slightly touched by the ferries of fall who paint them such splendid colours but there was an emerging of soft yellow and brown with patches of red and gold. The ground was only lightly littered with the first hint of falling leaves.
Every sort of tree I know met me on the trail. There were two towering walnut that seemed to speak to me as I passed. Their branches groaned heavily and I was surprised they had such a large voice in such a soft breeze. There were large and small of each variety of tree but I was particularly taken with a tiny oak which rested on the side of the path. I breathed a quick prayer that it would survive so close to the trail and soon join its parent tree in spreading long arms out to protect the forest floor.
There was little rustling of birds in the trees. Many are moving south already so their songs don’t fill the air like the spring but a cardinal pair flitted in front of me and I could hear a crow in the distance. A squirrel caught my eye as it darted up a tree with a walnut to hide for winter. A chipmunk hightailed it to a hole I could not see beneath the brush. A small streak of yellow slid across my path and made me stop. I love watching snakes as they weave themselves into the fibre of the forest floor.
The stream bed was much drier than I’ve ever seen it before, even after the rain, but further along it began to trickle and turn into the babbling brook I love to hear.
And then I broke out into the sunshine in the meadow and headed back for supper, grateful for my redeemer, who allows pain too deep to bear to experience the healing and hope held in the glory of nature.