One of my favorite parts of the day is walking early in the morning with my dog. The trails near our house take me past ponds, through stands of trees and fields, and past stone walls and other reminders of an earlier history. When you walk the same trails every day, the subtle changes as one season shifts to another float into the edges of your awareness. The air feels different, the light changes and the bird songs change. My favorite is the first day that I hear the frogs.
At some point this winter I started to head off on my walk with my mind full of lists of things to do and unresolved problems. I felt like I needed to use the time to work through things that needed to get done and was less and less tuned into what was happening around me. It was a gradual shift, one that I didn’t notice until one very cold day when the juxtaposition of a bird song that I associate with spring and my frost-bitten fingers was sufficiently jarring to push its way through the clutter of lists in my brain. It made me come to a full stop and just listen.
In the past few weeks, a line from a song I like has been surfacing in the background: “Peace, be still, be silent and you’ll hear the whispered roar …” I’ve been trying to explore the many ways to listen. What began as commitment to leave behind the day’s projects for the duration of a morning walk has grown to a practice of spending time being still and waiting to hear God’s voice in the silence. It’s hard for me not to immediately begin to fill silence by framing a question and turning over ideas in my head, but the stillness of listening has become a time I look forward to. Often, I hear something that couldn’t have competed with the chatter that I would generate on my own and sometimes the silence itself is enough.
I write this before we begin our journey together through Holy Week, knowing that it won’t be read until after we celebrate the Resurrection together. I look forward to once again walking these days together and to all of the moments that I associate with an Epiphany Holy Week.