On a recent afternoon I reached the top of a hill and looked out at a sun almost set and the fog rolling in. I was walking along a gravel path as the grass waved and a hawk settled on the highest branch of a nearby tree. I cherish these secluded times.
Despite the ideal setting, something was off and I couldn’t seem to settle into the moment. I wasn’t connecting with the view like I usually do. I wasn’t seeing the way I wanted to. An unseen barrier was separating me from what was in front of me. And there was no one else to blame–I was alone.
Connecting with nature is precious to me. I remember in high school first hearing the word “transcendentalism,” fascinated by the notion that divinity could be discovered within nature itself. Visits to the woods or the lake or the mountains are my grounding. They center me. They bring me back to what is real.
This time it wasn’t working, and I was disoriented. The hawk in the tree took to the air and floated into the distance. The familiar breeze rolled through just right. What was wrong? I stopped walking for a moment and turned back at the path behind me. Then it clicked. I was in.
What was it that was keeping me from being truly present? What had finally given way?
My feet. It was me. The harsh noise of shoe on gravel had been burying the quieter sounds. Now I heard it all. I couldn’t see the breeze but I could hear it when it passed through the grass. A few birds hidden in far off trees chirped back and forth. And the most important sound was what wasn’t heard. It was the empty space not filled by sound. The holy space.
That space is almost always filled by life. We are all walking down gravel paths of our own. Writing this post is, ironically, adding to the noise. It is almost inevitable–life has to be lived. So it takes intention and awareness to pause and ask life to wait for just a moment while we listen to the quiet. But then we hear it.