I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Beth Adoette's reflection "Grace. Daily Grace."
I am not a fan of catchphrases. They make me cringe. “One Day at a Time” is one of those sayings that seemed to be written on every other card I received in the mail when I was going through a serious health issue years ago. “Just Breathe” is another one. Two words that can create in me more anxiety and hyperventilating than attempting to be still without them.
But I don’t dismiss these well-intended sayings. I understand there is wisdom in there somewhere. The challenge is transforming simple words in my mind into deep understanding in my spirit. For this, I need a translator. And for me, the translator is Nature. That never-ending, extravagant collection of wisdom and grace wrapped in, and often disguised as, beauty.
To grasp “One Day at a Time” during my health crisis, I used to imagine I was in the woods where I grew up, able to see only one part of the path from my feet to the big, moss covered rock that blocks the view of the rest of the path until you reach and circle around it. “Yes, I can do that,” I would say to myself. “I can travel that part of the path today.” For “Just Breathe,” I remind myself that I am connected to every living thing on earth through the collective breath. I close my eyes and imagine I am slowly breathing in and out with chickadees and ladybugs. I immediately calm down.
Lately, I have been wrestling with another phrase. “Living in the Moment.” A wonderful aspiration, but truth be told it terrifies me. It asks me to look squarely at what is happening right now. No more avoiding the present by looking toward the goal of that big, moss covered rock ahead. I must stand still. I must look at my feet. I am afraid. I need the powerful, yet gentle voice of nature to help me. So that is where I go.
Here in southeastern New England, there is a road that runs between the river and the ocean. At sea level, it is a low vulnerable place. The wind is often fierce. The fickle temperature changes cause the road to buckle. And because of its exposure to the elements, it is often in disrepair. At high tide, the water rises over the pavement, the ground shifts, and the edges begin to crack. It is the place where man-made and natural interact. A perfect place for contemplation. I go there often to walk along the edges.
Like the road, I am vulnerable. I am getting older. I have lived through stuff. There are cracks in my road. There are scars. There are things that may not change. There are questions that may never be answered. I am afraid to be still. It feels like the pause between breaths without chickadees and ladybugs . . . only longer. How can I be brave enough to look at the cracks? How can I be strong enough to face reality? The answer is in the tides.
What I have not yet mentioned about the little river road are the gifts that come in with the tide. As water is slowly pulled up over the road by the circling moon, it carries little pieces of reeds and grass. When the water recedes, beautiful chaos is left behind to settle in the cracks. Daily, the water washes over. Daily, it brings new gifts. Daily, it creates new designs. I realize I don’t walk along the road to see the cracks, I go to see what has settled in them and witness the cracks and grasses working together to create something beautiful.
But even more comforting than the beauty I find along the edges is the faithfulness of the tides.
You can do nothing to stop them. No matter what you do, or have done, the fact is the tide comes in everyday, brining new gifts to soften the unplanned gaps in the road. It is not something you have to ask for. It is already done. All you need to do is look. Eons ago when the Creator set the moon in place, the tides began to rise and fall and have not stopped since. Light and dark. High and low. Power and gentleness. Opposites. Balance. It is Grace. Daily Grace!
Here at the edge of the road where I sometimes feel vulnerable and alone, where I go to find feel God’s presence, the tides are my assurance. A tiny glimpse into the Great Mystery that holds the immense universe together in perfect balance, and a voice that also speaks to me, little me, helping me be brave enough to look at my feet on the pavement. As the moon circles and the tide rises, I am reassured that gifts in different forms will come to soften the cracks in my road.
To “Live in the Moment” is to be still, present, and witness the beauty of reality and grace working together to create beauty under my feet. That is Grace. Daily Grace.
Born in the Appalachian Mountains, Beth Adoette grew up with beech trees, hemlock, mountain streams, and chickadees in her hand.
A long time resident of southeastern New England, she now concentrates on writing, illustrating, and photographing what she calls the “Contemplative Sacred Circles” she co-creates with nature.
Beth holds a BFA in Fine Arts and certification in Eco-Art Therapy. She recently published her first illustrated book, A Year of Sacred Circles, Hearing Nature's Voice in Silent Conversations. Visit her online at BethAdoette.com