One of the prayer forms that I use with my spiritual discovery groups is Gifts of the Day -- taking a brief time to center into attentive silence, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate the gifts of the past twenty-four hours, letting these flow through our minds and hearts, giving thanks for them.
We've found that these gifts come in many shapes: things we've seen in nature, time with friends and family, a difficult situation that goes well, good food, an insight from reading or quiet time, music and art.
Often it is small, specific things that come to mind -- the juicy peach I enjoyed at breakfast, a good talk with a friend, the fiery center of a coneflower lit by noon time sunshine. I record some of these in my photos, generally the nature-oriented ones.
This past weekend, a big gift was the chance to spend some unexpected time with my youngest sister. On very short notice, Deb rode with a friend whose mother had just died to Ohio, and Judy and I drove out and picked her up, bringing her back to Goshen for a couple days. We set aside our plans for cleaning, writing, gardening and blogging, and instead had some good family times, making and eating meals, watching the Olympic opening ceremonies, and hanging out together.
On Saturday Dad made an old family favorite -- fondue, from a recipe that a Swiss friend shared with him years ago
A second cloudy, rainy morning. What a delight! And what a delight to find this delightful -- a month of no rain creates a completely different receptive spirit than, say, what we are likely to experience come November. (Cloudy wet day after cloudy wet day, for those who are not familiar with Northern Indiana weather).
After yesterday's rain, Judy and I walked along the race. There was a familiar late summer mix of Queen Anne's Lace and cornflowers, bejeweled by raindrops. Familiar -- and yet how amazing and unusual when you start focusing in for a close view.
At Faith House Fellowship last week, one of the farmers in the group gave us an invitation to think of positive aspects of our current drought. "No mosquitoes." "Hardly any weeds." "No need to mow the lawn."
Another participant mentioned that she'd been keeping her eyes open for what was thriving, either thanks to, or despite the drought. So yesterday I went out with the camera and that idea in mind, and found a few things to record.
Trees grab our attention, but there were also many intriguing tiny scenes on the floor of the forest around our campsite in Colorado -- flowers, rocks, mosses, ferns, decaying logs serving as hosts to a myriad of small plants and animals. Here are a few.
Looking back through my photos of Colorado trees, I can't help but think of Mary Oliver's poem, When I Am Among the Trees:
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."
With the drought here, and yet another day of 100 degree temperatures, it seems a prime time to post some pictures of the mountain stream near our campsites at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp.
And for a more complete experience, here's a short video clip of the rushing waters.
The long-distance views at The Pines Ranch in Westcliffe were delightful, but so were some of the nearer views (and someone with a sense of humor posted that MPH sign on the rather bumpy dirt lane).
We're back home again in Indiana, after travels that took us east to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and west to the Sangre de Cristo in Colorado. There were good family times and many scenic views, but between being in areas without internet access and a sometimes recalcitrant computer, I haven't been posting them here.
Not that I stopped looking around me, or taking photos. I'll be going through them in the next week, and sharing some. In the meantime, here are a few moments of light -- and rain, which is feeling precious and beautiful here in drought-ridden Goshen. These come from the area around Westcliffe, CO, mostly looking east from the place we stayed at the foot of the Sangre de Cristos mountains.
Fireworks for the 4th -- the only kind we'll see around here. We're in Colorado for a niece's wedding this weekend and between the drought and the fires Colorado is already fighting, there are burn and fireworks bans everywhere.
We came to Colorado by a round-about route -- driving to Harrisonburg for a Weaver family reunion at Highland Retreat last weekend, spending a few days in Pittsburgh where our daughter lives, and then flying out to Denver. We'll be in Westcliffe for the wedding and then camp for a few days.
I hear there are mountains around here, but so far the smoke haze has kept them obscure. Even so, there's sunlight on the fauna and flora, and I'm enjoying the variety.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"