Blessed Stillness

credit:  Brooke McAllister

I woke this morning with my “to do” list playing a loop track in my brain. It’s longer than usual and my insides felt tight as a result. But remembering the words of my gurus (Martin Luther: “I find I have so much to do that I must spend two hours a day in prayer;” and the equally sage Anne Lamott: “Keep moving or you die.”), I pushed myself outside for a quick walk before tackling the tasks of the day.

I strolled off our property and into the adjacent woods. The first thing that struck me, besides the tangle of green that has burst into being in the last few weeks, was birdsong -- so clear and bright and immediate it seemed each bird had an amplifier on his little scissor mouth. The woods were full of throaty exuberance. “Listen to me! I’m a bird!” each one seemed to be trumpeting.

Then it was off the woodland trail and down to the Little Campbell River to a bench my farmmates have dubbed “the Listening Bench” where I go to, well, listen. My practice is to sit quietly and practice the presence of God through contemplative prayer – be present to the Presence that finds me there. I hadn’t been sitting for more than three minutes when he came. In the river’s current, brown from the recent rains, a bigger brown – a square face, flat ears, sturdy body and wide flat tail, like a flipped rudder. A beaver. Four seconds and he was gone – carried swiftly downstream and out of view.

The whole incident -- the temptation to tackle “to do's”, the invitation to stillness, the blessings of the birds and beaver -- put in mind of a Mary Oliver poem:

It Was Early
(from Evidence)

It was early,
 which has always been my hour
  to begin looking
   at the world

and of course,
 even in the darkness,
  to begin
   listening into it,

 under the pines
  where the owl lives
    and sometimes calls out

as I walk by,
 as he did
  on this morning.
   So many gifts!

What do they mean?
 In the marshes
  where the pink light
   was just arriving

the mink
 with his bristle tail
  was stalking
   the soft-eared mice,

and in the pines
 the cones were heavy,
  each one
   ordained to open.

Sometimes I need
 only to stand
  wherever I am
   to be blessed.

Little mink, let me watch you.
  Little mice, run and run.
   Dear pine cone, let me hold you
    as you open.

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