Yesterday I was at Maple Tree Meadows, near Three Rivers, Michigan, for another in this year's monthly series of retreats on Soul and Soil. Karla Kauffman led us in a rhythm of an hour of study and conversation, an hour of labor, an hour of solitude and contemplation, and an hour gathered at table, eating and talking.
It was a cool and rainy day, for which the soil was grateful, as were we. Nothing like a little drought to change your perspective on gray, rainy days! Though I generally have a positive attitude toward days of gentle rain like this one -- it reminds me of the year I lived in Belgium, and brings back warm memories.
We studied two more chapters from Ellen Davis' book, Scripture, Culture and Agriculture, and talked of the gift of manna, and eating as the most basic of all cultural and economic acts. And we talked of Leviticus and the way it portrays the acquisition and consumption of food as the definitive cultural and religious act, an occasion for Israel to practice covenantal faithfulness.
And then we went out and stacked wood in the barn, observing the Benedictine practice of stopping when the bell rang for prayer, even though another ten minutes or so would have seen the whole pile neatly stacked. Instead when our "bell" rang -- when Karla looked at her watch and said it was time for our hour of quiet -- we stopped, took off our work gloves, and moved in to a time of contemplative prayer.
My prayer took the form of wandering with my camera, slowing down enough to see the beauty hidden around me, focusing on the gifts of this gray day. They were subtle, but there. Most of the photos that follow I found in the pasture pictured in the first photo above.
And then Karla rang her kitchen chimes and we gathered around the table for that cultural, economic, and religious act of eating together -- a salad of mixed green and lemony lentils, corn on the cob, and applesauce, with fresh peaches to end with. Thanks, Karla, for the space, the reflections, the fellowship, and the lunch!
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"