One of my favorite times each year is when I am on retreat. Every vowed religious is required to take time each year for prayer and reflection during a set time called retreat. My favorite type of retreat is to spend 7-8 days in a hermitage in a woods or some other kind of nature setting.
For many years, I made my retreat in hermitages in a woods in Erie, PA. I not only had the woods but also it was walking distance from Lake Erie. Every day I would walk to the lake and take time to reflect on the changing waters. The lake seemed to be an image of what life was/is all about. One day I was so struck by the changing reality of the lake that I felt compelled to write a poem.
stretching out before the mind’s eye,
a vastness that speaks of depth,
crashing against the strongest walls,
digging up the dregs within,
inviting participation from within,
a movement reaching outward,
to be at one.
belying inner power and strength,
waiting for winds to act upon
These differing faces of the lake remind me of how real life is on a daily basis. Some days are calm but others are tumultuous. Some reflect our inner strength and some defy our resolve to be at peace. Regardless of how changing the lake is, it is always there, remaining a reality of creation. This is true of us as well. Regardless of what is happening in our lives or the world around us we remain the real human face of God’s creation.
Time away on retreat is a gift many people can’t afford for a variety of reasons, yet quiet time to reflect on our lives is essential for good mental and emotional health. We need to see the beauty of nature around us, even if it is a beautiful weed. We need to be aware of our changing moods, needs and hopes. Retreat time or quiet time for personal reflection are not just a plus in our lives but a necessity. Take the time!
In what ways does nature influence the way you live?
In what ways do you take time to nourish your inner being?