Monday 4th June 2018 @ 5:53 pm
Nature does it better.
The annual pilgrimage to Taizé run by the ecumenical chaplaincy in Trinity, is one of the markers in my year. Admittedly it is getting harder for me to live in the midst of some of the more ‘rustic’ circumstances of a week that can feel like you’re living in Germany – the time of the year we go always seem to coincide with German holidays, and really there are only so many times I can handle a 15year old German stare at me scandalously and say ‘NO. You can only have ONE roll!’
What makes it so special in my year are the students we take. They are a multifaceted group. Some committed faithful Christian folk from various denominations – some agnostic types, and it’s always brilliant when atheists desire to join our pilgrimage from time to time. The conversation, banter, worship and shared life over a week all add to the sense of chaplaincy being a place where you get to know people’s real lives. Real lives that are different from my real life.
Getting to share my real life, with the real lives of others is not just a privilege of chaplaincy, it is an axiomatic privilege of living. Singing with, eating with, sharing conversation with, sharing laughter with, sharing eucharist with, sharing questions with, sharing hopes and dreams and values and fads with … these are the things which make humans better humans, and make the trip beautiful to me. People come back different. It’s worth it.
This year there was an added dimension … I walked every day into the quiet places of the surrounding Bourgogne countryside. Ireland is not the only place with 40 shades of green set on undulating hillsides with winding rivers and twisting trees. It was life–giving for me to escape the settlement and be alone with nature.
And nature seemed to appreciate it too.
I saw a red deer in the middle of a corn field.
I saw mating ladybirds – which did make me feel like I was intruding.
(This is strange, because to the insects of course there was no romance involved. Mr Ladybird had not spent an entire day being nice to Mrs Ladybird, complementing her, bringing her flowers home from work etc., just because he felt the need to snuggle. Not at all. This was pure biology. Survival of the fittest. Right there where I wanted to sit down. No clue as to anything else going on except nature’s fight to remain alive, full, multiplying and energizing. Still, I felt I was intruding and left them to it).
I saw an otter. It was incredible … I was walking across a small bridge over a small river, and Mr Otter was swimming across the same river. I could have watched him for hours as he scrambled up the bank and searched for morsels of food in the long grass.
I saw tons of butterflies, insects and birds. But the most magnificent sight of all was the buzzards, o maybe they were Red Kites. I wasn’t close enough to tell. But they were magnificent, slowly flowing on the air currents, hovering, swooping, flying … they were majestic in their aerial abilities. Nothing was more captivating than the times I witnessed two raptors being mobbed by blackbirds / smaller birds. Mobbing is a common phenomenon but one which I have never seen. I guess the predator hawks were too close to breeding / feeding grounds for the smaller birds and so they (in two’s as I witnessed, or I even witnessed it once with a lone brave little soldier) attacked the predator to chase it away. And it worked. Every time. The hawk moved on. What was particularly stunning was the time I saw two smaller birds chase a hawk by dive bombing it, causing the hawk to do a complete 360°turn in midflight. Exquisite. It just turned right through a whole complete cylinder roll without breaking sweat. It flew straight, had the little dive bomber come to it’s wing to attempt to damage it, but it just rolled a 360°and flew on.
Mesmerizing. Beautiful. Secure. Acrobatic.
Humans opening their minds and hearts as one, and recognizing that something deep, deep inside each of us calls us toward the other. Each other. For companionship, for friendship, for significance.
Corn ripe fields and rolling hillsides offering the natural laws of beast and survival as if there were nothing so turbulent in the whole world aside from blackbirds chasing Red Kites.
God I love it.
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