I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Becky Rische’s reflection on paying attention to nature and the divine.
Quieted by nature, I can sometimes better hear that God-given voice showing me what is mine to do. Noticing who I am, how I am, and where I am when this happens, gives me guidance on how to hear and see and follow God at other times.
For instance, right now I’m writing this from a dear friend’s cabin in the mountains. I planned to leave today, but a fresh six inches of snow covered the roads. Driving in ice and snow is foreign to me, and practicing alone on narrow mountain roads clearly didn’t offer a good learning environment. So I dug in for another day. In truth, staying longer is my overwhelming preference.
I have a spectacular display of three-story pine trees to keep me company. The pines provided welcome privacy during this week’s stay, and now seem just as happy balancing large mounds of snow on their limbs. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, I can see the great village of creatures housed in those trees. I’ve learned their names because a bird field guide and a 14-year-old “critter journal” sit on a nearby table inviting visitors to record their sightings. Bear stories appear in those pages, as well as dates and lists upon lists of bird sightings.
This encouraged me to pay attention to the vast assortment of fluttering wings at the feeder outside the window. Along that same sight line, a herd of nine deer have moved into the picture to play in the new snow. I bundled up and walked down to see them, so they rewarded my attention by scampering across the snow field like jack rabbits, and I got it on video.
This enchanted place belongs to my spiritual director who has years of experience practicing the art of paying attention. Her vocation calls her to help others to do the same. Shortly before that luscious snowfall, she had sent me a message to “watch for all the ways God says ‘I love you’ today.” Soon the softest, quietest, white flakes began floating down and continued for a full day. In nature, God speaks for Himself mostly, but soul friends help us to listen.
My soul friend’s signature and God’s signature appeared everywhere around that mountain cabin, and I held them both in special gratitude all week. Beauty and restfulness, serious birds and relaxed deer, the nighttime threat of bear, and the daytime, up-close mix of small town people all spoke of God’s great imagination. It was hard to leave, but I felt so blessed to carry that holiness with me.
I find writing too can provide a slowed-down experience of fast-paced lives. My time at the cabin was part of a transition period into a new calling, one that I wanted to continue to include writing. Reading that critter journal made plain how friends I hadn’t known to write, found it irresistible to play with words, given the time and encouragement. Sorting and feeling through just the right phrases to describe our experiences helps us to learn from them.
The focus required by writing can also settle the whirring chatter of my mind and help me to relax.
Paying close attention to things and analyzing my part in making them work can seem inconvenient, but I want to remember the moderating rituals of writing or nature walks can also be life-giving. Whether absorbed by the daily demands of a simple existence or a vigorous calling, I hope always to find my way back to meaningful spiritual practices that move me to a new sense of wonder, where God’s voice becomes unmistakable.
Becky Rische is retired from a long professional career in writing ranging from city lifestyle magazines to business journals to public relations at major universities. She now offers faith story writing retreats to help capture transformational moments in peoples’ lives, and support the culture of listening.