In April I attended an enrichment day for spiritual directors at the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Seattle. These events are a wonderful time to gather with spiritual directors of other faith traditions and enjoy a time of refreshment and renewal for all. The presenters were Christine Paintner, founder of Abbey of the Arts and a Benedictine oblate, and Betsey Beckman who does liturgical dance. The theme was how to use the arts in spiritual direction.
One of our exercises was to take a walk engaging all of our senses and attempting to stay in the present moment. With our over-scheduled and agenda-filled days, we often just race through life not noticing the world around us. We were asked on our walk to be children again, setting aside intent and just wander. We could take a picture if something captured our fancy.
I set out and meandered down the street. Things were in full bloom in the residential neighborhood of Capitol Hill. I stopped to look more closely at a perennial border. I examined a spurge, an ugly name for such an interesting plant. One is likely to pass it by because its leaves and blossoms are the same chartreuse color. The stocks are straight with sword-like leaves coming off them. The flower is a balloon-shaped cluster of blossoms each shaped like a little shallow cup no bigger than my thumb nail. Off to the edge of this cup is a fruit-like object not unlike a miniature plum with stamens hanging down like the clapper of a bell. Around the top of this fuzzy fruit are four yellow crescents rather like scallops on a bonnet.
From the majestic to the miniscule, all this beauty and detail created out of God’s good pleasure – whether anyone sees it or not, whether or not anyone stands in wonder and awe to give thanks and praise – speak to me of the complexity and glory of God’s creation. Certainly the rest of creation, the birds, animals and fish, don’t appreciate all this abundance of beauty. Only mankind stands and often kneels in wonder. It made me wonder if God had created humankind in his image, just so he would have someone to share this beautiful bounty with and who would also agree that it was indeed good!
When we returned from our walks, we shared our experiences. I showed my partner a close-up picture I’d taken of my spurge. “I’ve never seen this plant before, she said. “Sure you have,” I replied. “They’re everywhere.” A few moments later she leaned over and showed me a picture she’d taken of the same plant but from farther away. All the tiny details were lost. We both nodded and smiled.
How often do we race through our days with our attention on the next thing to do? This walking exercise reaffirmed again our need to slow down and indeed “smell the roses.”