The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows. When we emerge from our offices, rooms and houses, we enter our natural element. We are children of the earth: people to whom the outdoors is home. Nothing can separate us from the vigour and vibrancy of this inheritance. In contrast to our frenetic, saturated lives, the earth offers a calming stillness. Movement and growth in nature takes time. The patience of nature enjoys the ease of trust and hope. There is something in our clay nature that needs to continually experience this ancient, outer ease of the world. It helps us remember who we are and why we are here.¹
I am at an annual conference for the United Methodist Church. We are nestled into the gorgeous Lake Junaluska area — a far cry from Charlotte where I’ve spent most days over the last year. In one of the opening sessions, we were reminded of how important “relationships” are to the annual conference. Each year we take a long weekend to come together and, yes, do the business of the United Methodist Church (UMC); but we also do the holy work of connecting with colleagues, friends and (for me!) teachers along this journey.
While I’m up in this area, I try to sneak away at least a couple of times to reconnect with another relationship I care for in ways beyond my saying: the mountains. I spent a couple of hours on the Blue Ridge Parkway and watched the sunset; watched the clouds roll in then out, then back in again; climbed rocks; sat under trees; breathed deeper than I have in a year. Along the road (literally from my car) I saw moose, a momma turkey and her chicks, a falcon, sprays of orange/yellow/purple/blue wildflowers and at least a dozen fellow needy people who were breathing deeply in the crisp mountain air too.
This time is all about relationships, but I’ve neglected and missed my relationship with the Blue Ridge mountains. The relationship we have is deep, soothing, calming, awe-some and nourishing. It really does feed me. It sustains me and fills me in ways I don’t usually understand right away. I needed to return here, even for a few hours.
I wonder what “relationships” we neglect that our minds, bodies and spirits are missing? Maybe it’s a human one. Maybe there is someone in your life you need to rekindle an old conversation with. Maybe the relationship you’re missing is to yourself. Have you connected with the deep parts of you that hold ancient and new wisdom at the same time? Maybe the relationship you should return to is with nature like me. Is there a place (the beach, mountains, city, hometown…) that you just need to go sit in for a while?
Allow me one more John O’Donohue quote:
To be wholesome, we must remain truthful to our vulnerable complexity. In order to keep our balance, we need to hold the interior and exterior, visible and invisible, known and unknown, temporal and eternal, ancient and new, together. No one else can undertake this task for you. You are the one and only threshold of an inner world. This wholesomeness is holiness. To be holy is to be natural, to befriend the worlds that come to balance in you.”
We must be vulnerable in our complexity. We need balance. We need interior and exterior space in our lives. We are ancient and becoming. We are responsible for our wholeness and a part of our holiness.
Relationships help us keep balance, they help us stay connected to the inside and outside world we inhabit. Rekindle a relationship, won’t you? Let it breathe a new (and at the same time, old) song into your body. Relationships cannot be cultivated without some intention. So intend for yourselves to connect and find that God is in our being, our doing and our connecting.
Grace & Peace, Cole
- John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom