Sometimes obstacles can have unexpected outcomes.
I came on retreat with a persistent dry, hacking cough. My plea to preserve other retreatants’ sanity by being assigned a room where I wouldn’t disturb them was answered by being given the “Woodpecker” room. Blissful. A room at the front of the house, away from everyone else.
From the first morning, a wicker chair next to a table on the front porch became my “good morning, world” spot. Be it foreground, middle ground, or distance there was something engaging to see.
On the first morning as I was sitting and settling in for the day, a red squirrel and a chipmunk were unexpected companions. They disappeared quickly. I thought about the pack of trail mix I had brought with me, just in case I needed it, and decided the squirrel’s and chipmunk’s needs were greater than mine.
On the second morning, I scattered some of the delectable mix, sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, raisins, dried cranberries, on the wall in front of me and waited. Nothing.
On the third morning, ditto. This time a black, elegantly shorn Portuguese water dog came ambling out of the wood in front of me. It stopped, looked at me, I think somewhat disdainfully, and then wandered off.
On the fourth day, I gave up on the trail mix. But the chipmunk appeared.
On the fifth day, nothing.
On the sixth day the squirrel turned up!
On the seventh day the squirrel decided the shelf on the table next to me was worth exploring as were the chair legs under me. But then it realized I wasn’t part of the furniture and skittered off down the ramp leaving behind a trail of foot and tail prints on the dewy surface as testimony to its presence.
I went inside and got the trail mix. Just sunflower seeds and a couple of raisins left, the stuff at the bottom of the pouch. I sat down and waited. The chipmunk appeared. It turned out it wasn’t alone: there was a battle royal being fought in the flower bed beneath me. The winner crawled out onto the porch to my right, checked out the floor and discovered the seeds, and the raisins, chewed frenetically and disappeared, appearing again shortly after, in a different place. I wondered briefly if chipmunks were troubled by plaque from eating sweet things.
My learning from this? Aside from the obvious, that God won’t be tamed, nor is to be summoned up at will like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp: get up half an hour earlier. And instead of sitting slumped over the kitchen counter trying to focus on Matt Galloway on Metro Toronto (the morning radio show on CBC for my non-Toronto friends) as I swallow my morning cuppa, take it outside. Find a place to sit, preferably the same place each morning and savour your mug of tea, Lapsang Souchong with plenty of milk for me, or coffee if that’s what you prefer, and simply be. Savour the quiet. Feel how gently the world is being opened up to you.
Would you like to join me? Each in our own place, of course.
All materials published on this site are copyright. Ilze Kuplens-Ewart, 2016