I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kathleen Deyer Bolduc’s reflection In My Own Backyard.
One of my most powerful contemplative practices is to ask God for a dream when I am unsure of which way to turn. God always gives me an answer, sometimes in surprising ways.
In the midst of health challenges that include debilitating fatigue, I’ve been seeking to discern what’s next for Cloudland, the contemplative retreat center I run with my husband. It’s becoming very difficult to design and facilitate retreats as well as create beautiful, peaceful, and inviting spaces for retreatants to meet with God in gardens, fields, barn, studio and prayer room.
And so, I ask for a dream.
Two dreams come immediately. Not in sleep, but as I pull a book from a crowded bookshelf. In so doing, I uncover one of my old journals, dated 2010—the year we established Cloudland. Knowing this is no coincidence, I pick up and open the journal. It falls open to a page where I had penned two dreams.
In the first, I chased a flock of peacocks across the backyard. I wanted their iridescent blue and green tail feathers to display in my living room.
In the second dream, I once again chased birds across the backyard, this time a flock of great blue herons. I chased them not for their feathers, but for a fledgling that struggled to keep up with her mother. I wanted to keep her for my own.
I take the journal to the backyard, sit, and close my eyes. As I meditate on these dreams, a yawning chasm opens in my chest. It is as if my heart was calling out from all those years ago— I want! I want! I want!
I take a deep breath and force myself to sit with the ache of wanting. Like a mouse nibbling inside a wall, it’s a gnawing, hungry feeling. Like a songbird struggling against the sides of a cage, it’s a claustrophobic feeling. Like an abandoned child crying for love, it’s a gut-wrenching feeling.
Sit with the feelings, I remind myself. Inhale. Exhale. Feelings are messengers of God. You asked for a dream and God answered with these dreams from the year you founded Cloudland. Sit and listen.
With the sitting, uncomfortable as it is, comes an understanding. The words of Lady Wisdom rise up. Upstream is all drama. Downstream is all joy.
For the last year or so, I’ve been paddling upstream, chasing after more—more beauty, more life, more depth for all who come to Cloudland. It gets so tiring! And all the time, if I’d only put down the paddle and let the current carry me downstream, I would have discovered that what I was looking for was right here in my own backyard.
A family of Baltimore orioles fly in and out of the buckeye tree, pops of bright orange, as they feast on buckeye blossoms. Lily of the valley perfumes the patio on which I sit. A cheeky robin performs an aria, seemingly for me alone.
I pick up my phone and search for the symbolism of peacocks and herons. I find peacocks signify beauty, new beginnings, self-expression and spiritual awakening. And great blue herons? In dreams, they also indicate spiritual awakening, as well as self-awareness.
Thirteen years ago, when God gave me these dreams, my husband and I perched on the cusp of a new beginning and deepened spiritual awakening with the establishment of Cloudland, this beautiful patch of ground that has hosted thousands of spiritually hungry and thirsty men, women and children: the chicken coop transformed into prayer room for spiritual direction; the falling-down 1880’s barn, rebuilt by my husband’s muscle to house healing services and retreats; the fields sown with wildflowers, paths cut through for retreatants to walk (and in the spring, for fawns and baby bunnies to hide in dappled sunshine). God provided all that we ever could have hoped for, and more.
But what do these dreams mean for me today, in 2023, with numerous health challenges wreaking havoc on my energy levels? I hear Lady Wisdom’s voice again: Upstream is all drama. Downstream is all joy.
Is it possible that what I am looking for is right here, right now, in my own backyard?
Perhaps it is time to put down the paddle, and let the river carry me where it will. Beauty, new beginnings, self-expression, and spiritual awakening can manifest in many ways, not only in the running of a retreat center. I’ve been dreaming of more time for writing, of spending more time with family, including my beautiful grandson, of traveling more with my husband. My heart skips a beat at Holy Spirit’s whispers.
It’s time to say, I am hungry, and trust I will be fed. It’s time to say, free me, and trust I will be freed. It’s time to say, I need a rest, and trust that rest will be provided.
Everything I want and need is here, now, because the Spirit of Life resides within me. All I need do is become still, every day, and open my heart to the Author of life, the One who loves me more than I love myself. All I need do is ask for what I need, trusting that God will supply me with more beauty, more life, more depth and more majesty than I ever dreamed possible.
Kathleen Deyer Bolduc is a spiritual director, author, and founder of Cloudland, a contemplative retreat center. Her books, including The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities and Autism & Alleluias, contain faith lessons learned parenting a son with autism, and finding healing and restoration through the spiritual disciplines. KathleenBolduc.com