Do Not Walk By Without Pausing
This past week at the Bield we had our first walking retreat. Jesus walked with his disciples, teaching and confiding in them; pilgrims in mediaeval times walked to special holy sites to offer devotion to saints or to repent and seek forgiveness; and modern pilgrims walk ancient pathways such as the Camino de Santiago in search of healing, wholeness, a glimpse of God or space and time to wonder about life. Walking as a way of communing with God, with nature and with others has been part of our faith for centuries. Our merry band of walkers joined this tradition.
Eight of us laughed, cried, walked, listened, shared, paused, quieted, talked and prayed. We clambered over styles, up hills, across meadows, along tracks, down lanes, around rocks and through gates. We picked our way across gushing mountain streams, stood in dappled sunlight among trees, admired blazing purple heather, squinted through the mist at the promise of distant hills, wondered at a line of stones marching into a reservoir, admired dramatic waterfalls and sat silently drinking it all in.
So often when we’re out walking our minds are set on a destination. Not so on our walking retreat. We paused, looked around us, and listened to the sounds of birdsong, water and our own breathing, before ambling on with no intention other than to enjoy the stunning beauty of God’s creation, share meaningful conversation and have time to sink deep into ourselves. It was sheer gift to spend time praying, reflecting and meditating with God.
“Do not walk by without pausing to attend to this rather ridiculous performance” Mary Oliver writes in her poem Invitation. What a joy to have done just that and to have shared this week with wonderful people and with God in this spacious and beautiful way.
Oh do you have time to linger for just a little while out of your busy
and very important day for the goldfinches that have gathered in a field of thistles
for a musical battle, to see who can sing the highest note, or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth, or the most tender? Their strong, blunt beaks drink the air
as they strive melodiously not for your sake and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning but for sheer delight and gratitude – believe us, they say, it is a serious thing
just to be alive on this fresh morning in the broken world. I beg of you,
do not walk by without pausing to attend to this rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something. It could mean everything. It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote: You must change your life.