The entry below was written during a time when I had decided to leave my career as a college teacher and had chosen to not pursue professional certification as an art therapist and counselor. Instead, I felt compelled to sink deeper into meditative disciplines that helped me connect with the intuitive artist within me and with the wider world of Nature, celebrating the spirituality present there. Walks in nature provided time for me to process questions about the life path I should be following. On this particular day, I had a strong sense of confirmation that I was meant to follow the artist's path.
The journal includes mention of an internal prayerful dialogue I practice. I address a question to God about my purpose and path in life. And usually, with patient listening, I receive some sort of response - not a sense of actually "hearing voices", just an intuitive knowing that a wiser presence has entered my field of awareness, offering me guidance or feedback. The voice can come in terms of a visual experience - beholding beauty, or it may come as a result of writing in a dialogue format, posing a question to the universe and waiting to write until I get a response. Or, as in the entry below, it may occur during a long hike, as I settle into the rhythms of movement and open to the world around me.
Peg's Journal 11/06/01
I walked this morning in the woods. Leaves everywhere, sky clear deep blue; mostly bare trees raising up their arms in a prayer to the space and light above them.
I walked alone, without the dog, without camera or notebook. Distracted at first, I later became open and deeply connected with the large and small things that surrounded me.
My head at first was full of my list of things to do, then I was berating myself over a list of things I should be -- a particular profession, a certain religion, a particular kind of mother, daughter, community member. It seemed as if the voices of all the past roles I have held--whether professional, spiritual or civic--called at me asking why they weren't worthy of my attention now. Are you just being selfish wanting to spend time writing and making art?" they asked."What makes you think you have something to contribute?" they challenged. And finally I responded by turning inward, asking God "what is it YOU want for my life?"nt>
My answer came quickly and then slowly refined itself.
At first, the answer was an urgent plea or command:
'I WANT YOU TO NOTICE MY CREATION'
I picked up a leaf that had caught the light, it was deep red like blood and rubies, pulsing life; though it was at the end of its life cycle, the sunlight penetrated it and made of it something rich and beautiful like stained glass windows. A chapel for mites and gnats!
'I WANT YOU TO APPRECIATE AND CELEBRATE CREATION'
I picked up what looked like an elm leaf, but its proportions were so large, I almost laughed out loud in wonder. It was something to celebrate -- these shapes and sizes of leaves lying before me, many all of one kind but also completely individual!
Tiny oak leafs, broad long oak leaves, mulberry leaves shaped like hearts, then like mittens. Elm leaves small and large. This seemed to me to be another line of conversation with God. A question or challenge---
'DO YOU THINK THAT I WOULD BAR ANY OF THESE DIFFERENT EXPRESSIONS OF LIFE FROM THE CIRCLE OF MY LOVE?'
'WHY THEN DO YOU THINK IF YOU DON'T DO THINGS THE SAME WAY SOMEONE ELSE DOES, YOU WILL BE PUNISHED?
I AM MUCH LARGER THAN ANYTHING YOU'VE BEEN TAUGHT
I AM CONNECTED WITH ALL THINGS, BETWEEN, ABOVE, BELOW…
WHAT APPEARS DEAD, MAY BE GENERATING LIFE, WHAT IS LOW
WILL BE RAISED UP, AND THE HIGH WILL BE BROUGHT LOW
-- NOT BECAUSE I WISH TO PUNISH OR HUMILIATE, BUT BECAUSE
THAT IS THE NATURE OF LIFE.
I walked further along the path, tuned into details, heart soft and open. Then I reached a bench in a clearing and sat down. I let the sun wash over my cool face, warming me in waves moving ever outward. My eyes, now closed, could feel the pulsing of life within me. I registered in the darkness of closed eyes, circles of light pulsing outward, bright, life-giving light in that darkness. Light that cleansed and connected and reassured me that I was part of the cycle of wholeness and not lost or fallen astray.
As I sat in that spot on the bench, bathed in sunlight, my winter jacket close around me, I asked the question again,
"God, what is it you want me to do with my life?"
BE A VOICE FOR MY CREATION
GIVE VOICE TO MY CREATION
And I thought how the silent fallen leaves had voices and stories, and the woodpeckers that shared the limbs of a tree, each working an area large to small depending on the size of the bird itself. And I recalled my story of the oak and acorn. And the nature website. And the weekly nature journal I am writing.
Then I thought YES. This is my work. This is my home. And I thought, too, that I would find this work if I lived back in the city, for I had loved the outdoors even as a child. I would watch sunrises over the Lake and and I would venture into forest preserves, and mark the seasons with the growing and dying of things.
As I left the sunlit bench where I had meditated, I felt acutely tuned into the life around me. Grateful. Gracious. Filled.
Then moments of Holiness and Benediction were open to me. Three instances stood out in my mind as particularly sacred.
A short distance after leaving the bench I heard a rustle in the brush and looked up to see two deer. One leapt off, but the other froze. We stood and stared at one another for quite some time, me sending all the warmth and appreciation I could her way. We are in the deer-hunting season right now. I know good people who hunt. I myself have eaten venison. I would eat venison again, the meat being untouched by antibiotics and engineered feed, low in fat, organic in nature. But there I was staring at this beautiful being who had reason to fear me, and she stared back at me. In my heart's voice I was saying "I know you are worried, it is hunting season and your kind will feel losses in number" "My kind is frightened now, too. We are at war* and there will be losses of our kind at the hands of one another"
What was shared in that interchange was a sense that we all experience loss and death--we all carry fears. As long as I remain a meat eater, I can't pretend I'm not part of this process. But I can stare a creature in the eye and recognize its beauty and its agility borne from the need to run. And I can say thank you for your Beauty and I'm sorry I cause you fear.
The deer turned away and leapt off with its partner, white tail flashing, further into the brush. When I proceeded onward, the next Benediction came through my sense of touch. And it came from a creature that I fear-- the spider. Across the path before me, were strung long strands of silk. Translucent silk catching light, floating on air, caught my eyelids and forehead and attached there and waved like ribbons beyond my hairline. It felt like a baptism--a ritual bestowal of light on that holy place in my face -- my eyes, my forehead, seat of intuition, of deeper vision. And fear was not present, but gratitude and awe for the skill and artistry of the spider's daily work.
The third Benediction came through my sense of sight and flight. Though I am wingless, I can imagine the joy of wings. I've felt my mind in flight, my spirit soaring, and these sensations, even in an earthbound being like myself, feel not only metaphorical, but physically real. In prayer, in celebration, in consternation, I seem to rise up on wings of thought, seeking my Creator. As I rounded the west end of the lake to come home, a dove flew up and her white underside caught the morning's light. The dove glistened against the azure sky and flew up past the swelling edge of the half moon resting in the western sky. And I knew I wanted to hold this image in my heart and mind and perhaps create it in paint for it, too, was an image of Baptism. Of being linked with the spirit and dedicated to living God's plan for me.
The dove spoke to me of how I want to live. Gently singing souls awake.
Flying to the Creator with thanks, with glimmers of insight into the wonder of what is.
Giving voice to Creation. Living earthbound, taking a winged path.
*US troops had gone into Afghanistan after the terrorists associated with the destruction of September 11, 2001