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I need to touch things that last

May 10, 2020

Approx. read time: 2:55 min., plus reflection questions

I awaken to dawn light, gently tapping at my bedroom window. This is how I know that it is Sunday. 

On all other days the alarm rouses me from sleep before the first hint of new day.

Living, as I do, in service to the spiritual care of others, I fill my reservoir daily with dawn light, and drink deep of the promises which lie hidden in the well.

Now I stretch, as I always do. Pray the Gloria, as I always do, before I throw back the covers.

But a heaviness encloses my heart this day. It is one more Sunday when I will not be with my church folk, my spiritual kin. 

Sunday has always, always, been the pinnacle of my week, the day toward which all my labors have pressed, the day which fills me with vitality for the labors of the week ahead.

But today, my soul feels flat in this moment of dawn.

I achingly need to touch Beauty today, and to be touched by Beauty. I need, today, to touch things that last. I need to hear songs that won’t go away.

So around noon I prepare my peanut butter sandwich, a small container of yogurt and dried fruit, a small thermos of coffee, and put them in my backpack, along with water, a notepad and pen, a camera.

And I walk four blocks to the north side of campus, the parklike sanctuary which I want to share with no one, and which I wish I could share with everyone.

As I walk up the original campus entrance past Villard Hall on my right, I touch the massive trunks of the Sisters Ponderosa, sentinels always present to greet me. The rose bushes on my left, in early bud and looking vigorous, are now as tall as I.

At the top of the walk I enter the parklike sanctuary, the north portion of the Old Campus Quad, and slowly move among my friends, greeting, touching, each one. 

First the Oregon White Oak, of massive girth and lush canopy. Then the California Incense Cedar with its deep-bending round-curved elbows. 

And now the Coast Redwood which looks fine, but thrives more in the moist marine air of southern Oregon and northern California. 

Next, my beloved Giant Sequoia, which lost its majestic spire in the 1962 Columbus Day Storm—a storm I remember well.

I have come to know each of these trees. I touch each one, and let myself be touched by each. They too let themselves be touched, by Gentle Visitor.

I am home! I think, and my soul breathes deep of the peace and enduring faithfulness of these magnificent trees.

They have weathered every wet Pacific storm, every icy Arctic blast. They have endured withering hot days and long seasons of drought. They have known the shake and shock of earthquakes—some local, one rolling down from Alaska.

They have beheld moonlight, and starlight.

Through the span of time they have endured social disruptions and market unrest, mountain eruptions, and outbreaks and pandemics of every sort. 

They have sheltered generations of birds, and harbored countless colonies of insects. 

I stand in awe of these mighty trees. I need them now, and draft deeply of their endurance, their stability, their deep-rootedness.

I sit now in the shade of massive Ancient Bigleaf Maple, and drink in the endless languid liquid warble of robins in the trees that surround me.

I need their song today. I need their song always.

I need to touch things that last. I need to hear songs that won’t go away.

Reflection questions

  1. Do I let myself be touched, and ministered to, by Nature? Where? How so?
  1. What parts of Creation have I befriended? How would I describe this kinship?
  1. What changes within me because of my immersions in Nature?

I’d love to hear from you!

Photo credit: Mary Sharon Moore, North Quad Sanctuary, University of Oregon Campus, 2020

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