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Take a Break for Beauty

There’s a reason that all the most important American holidays are towards the end of the year. The light is growing dimmer, our skies are overcast, and the leaves are falling off the trees. Everything seems to conspire to make these days dreary and devoid of color. And we’re not even to winter yet. We need all the encouragement we can get. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas – our celebrations get bigger as we move into the darkest days of the year.

Here where I live, it’s been raining, misting, and spritzing for the last several days. A cold drizzle to accent the mid-afternoon twilight. Lethargic from the weather and unable to concentrate on my work, I decided to take a little break. I went for a walk in a part of town I’m less familiar with. I decided to get outside and see what I could see, rain or no rain.

I was well-rewarded. Just a few minutes into my walk, I took a random turn down a dead-end street and found myself at the entrance to a wooded nature trail I didn’t even know existed.

Setting foot on that path, something shifted inside me. The soggy leaves squished under my feet and raindrops splashed me from treetops. The air had changed. The sights, sounds, and smells of the city were suddenly far away. I was enveloped by a sense of peace and presence.

There was life here.

The dim, inanimate world that I had inhabited just a few minutes ago had been transformed. The rocks and moss under my feet seemed to breathe beneath me. The trees welcomed me into their forest. In a flash, the world had been re-enchanted. The land was alive, and I was a part of it.

I would have lingered there on the trail as long as daylight remained, but I had to return to work. Still, the sensation of aliveness remained with me for the rest of the day. When the darkness seemed too much to bear, all I had to do was remember myself standing on that wooded path, flanked by the mossy trees. I was rooted again in a community of living beings that thrives even in the short, dim, rainy days of late fall.

I’m grateful that I took the time to go exploring. I’m glad I took a break for beauty. There’s so much more to this existence than meets the eye. Life is here, all around us, if we’re willing to see it.

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  • broschultz

    Just received this message at meeting this past Sunday. Thought of the scripture “Be still and know that I am God”. After a minute or so wondered it “Be still, and know God” wasn’t just as appropriate. Reflected on how often we busy ourselves in doing things (building altars) after we encounter God in the stillness in order to memorialize that encounter at the cost of more moments of “stillness” and Godly encounters.

    • CHJoe

      This post and reply speak of two contrasting approaches.

      Attending to some portion of the colors, sounds, textures, seasons, and life around us, we may be inspired and renewed. This may offer an immediate and lasting lift, as well as a lifelong path of seeking, relationship, and epiphany.

      Attending to the source — of these appearances and of our experience of them, of our very awareness and being — we may move through / within / beyond the senses, encountering a light and life transcending space, sound and silence.

      I once heard a twentieth century choral piece evoking this approach:

      Be still and know that I am God.
      Be still and know that I am.
      Be still and know that.
      Be still and know.
      Be still.
      Be.

      (Such meditations remind us that the fruitful seed of any music — or any experience — may begin to germinate in the spaces between, beneath, beyond the notes.)

      Each of these approaches may nourish the other.

      In attending to the transformations appearing through the senses and the seasons, even Quakers may discover divine inspiration within the differentiated world — and year. And, even in the midst of nature’s symphonic revelations and other celebrations, a sense of stillness may help open us to an imminent, transcending source . . .

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Seeing and encounter (noticed or not) is essential.

      This may seed inspired action (even building — hopefully for the future more than mere memorial).

      Which my offer fresh ground for new seeking and encounter . . .

  • Ky

    I really enjoyed reading this blog. I found it very inspirational because it sums up my experience in school. I go to a Quaker school and I did not know what Quakers were until I came to a Quaker school. I did not like my school when I first got here. I would stay in my room and only go out when I had practice, to get food, or to go to class. One day I was like I need to explore this school and give it a chance, and when I got out and really got to know people and learn about different events and clubs we have made it seem like a great and friendly place to be. Now when I go to unfamiliar places I think about when I first came to college and started to explore, it makes me more relaxed and confident that I will find something I enjoy about an unfamiliar place.