We need to get away. The noise is too loud. Violence fills the air. A nation is fractured…maybe beyond repair. I’ve had enough for a while. I can’t stand to hear another strident voice sending a call to arms to crazed zealots.
We’re traveling to the woods. A little lodge surrounded by forestland, where wildlife abounds, birds sing, and Nature seems oblivious to the chaos that humans are fomenting. The air will be clean, the rain will fall, the leaves will surrender to the season, and all will seem like Eden before we had to leave it.
When we pray each morning we thank God for our “home.” We’ve learned through the years that our understanding of home has broadened to include many locations where we find a sense of belonging, rest, and safety. Our place of retreat for the next couple of days brings good memories to mind: this was where Martha brought me right after my cancer surgery three years ago. I was weak and unsteady and fearful, but the trees were so green and full of life that I gained strength by just gazing at them. And I received sacred permission to go on.
This will be a retreat from the election and the virus. I’ve heard enough about both for a while. I’m experiencing what World War I veterans described as “shell shock.” My mind and my emotions and my inner spirit have been battered by salvoes that have made me one giant throbbing nerve ending.
On this little pilgrimage of seclusion and serenity, I’ll recall other places where I found sanctuary. The hill above my boyhood home in Pennsylvania, where I gazed at the clouds and then at my home town. I saw God touching and blessing that little city, and I felt what the Bible calls “the peace that passes human understanding.”
I will remember other spots along the way: a bridge in Indiana, a military cemetery in Virginia, a quiet beach in Vietnam, and an overlook on a trail in Seattle where I often saw the majesty of Mount Rainier. And of course, our monastery in Kentucky and the white sands of the Florida coastline.
I look forward to traveling with Martha tomorrow to find solace in the Autumn leaves and the harvested fields. I’ll listen to my heart and the faint voice of the Spirit. I’ll open my eyes and ears and every other sense to receive the gift of tranquility. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find the same renewal that inspired me to move onward from those other heavenly havens that were so life-giving.