Maple leaves blazing red in fall

Glory days

Denise West, OSBFar from home, Living in Community 4 Comments

Maple tree with blazing red fall leavesOne of the hopes I have for my six months at Holy Wisdom is to deepen my relationship with God or, more precisely, to find out what I mean when I said I believe in “God.” Though I’ve been on a path seeking God for a number of years, I have gotten to a point where I realize that I am too often trying to generate a sense of God, rather than having a conviction of God’s presence.

Each day after morning liturgy, the sisters meet for chapter. When I first came as a potential sojourner in July, I was surprised and delighted at this gathering and felt privileged to join them. After spending the morning in silence and prayer, this is where the community greets one another, shares in a reading and plans for the day. After hearing a brief section of a book they’ve selected to read aloud, each person has a chance to reflect and share whatever thoughts were raised by the text. I’m frequently treated with personal insights or theological tidbits I hadn’t heard before. One was this, from Sister Mary David: “There are three books: the book of creation, the book of scripture, and the book of experience.” Hmm, I thought, how intriguing. I’ve given a fair amount of consideration to scripture and probably too much to what theologians over the years have had to say, but I liked an emphasis on experience and creation. What doors could this open for me?

Solitary deer peering out from among tall, dry prairie grassesI have begun to pay more attention to the feelings that arise in me as I wander the prairie grounds. There is so much to be awed by–the changing of the colors in the trees, the opening of the milkweed pods, the pair of Sandhill cranes and the flock of turkeys wandering the grounds, the occasional deer. I don’t need to generate a feeling of awe when I see these things; the feeling arises spontaneously. But maybe I need to give more thought to how I understand this feeling and what I name this experience.

As I continue to walk the trails, paying attention, I notice a change. I begin to feel as if I’m no longer looking at nature, but interacting with Creation, carrying on a conversation and being in relationship, responding to the great “I AM THAT I AM,” the eternal BEING-ness of God. I come with my insecurities, fears and anger, and the hills and grasses and trees respond with I AM THAT I AM. They are resolute, steadfast. Not indifferent, but rather upholding of life. A wonder. A continuation. I am claiming this affirmation for myself, as it is life-giving and life-sustaining. It’s new for me and it’s a gift of this community and of the prairie and all who work to preserve the natural world that is a gift to all of us.


Read other posts from Denise in her series, Far from home.

Comments 4

  1. Thank you for your share…may you continue to discover and be surprised, delighted, and more and more transformed by all you have learned. I feel inspired and hopeful reading your essay… And a sense of joy too… I think sharing our journeys is the key to something really really special!

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Christine. I agree that sharing is essential to the journey, and it helps to be reminded that our stories matter. Blessings be with you!

  2. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. It sounds spiritually rich. I hope that God speaks to you and that you recognize his/her voice. Be blessed.

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