I had something else started and almost complete for my blog post today but then I encountered the most incredible sunset Saturday evening. It was very similar to the sunset picture I added to this blog but I was driving so I didn’t stop to capture it and to be honest, I didn’t want to spoil the moment. I wanted to keep watching it glow and change in all the regal colors of pink, purple and blue. I felt immense gratitude for a beautiful day, warmer temps (after frigid cold on Friday), morning coffee with a friend and a lovely Saturday Vigil Mass.
As I drove I looked to the left where the evening before I saw 20 or so deer grazing in a field. They weren’t there, I wondered where they had ventured for their evening meal. I turned at an intersection on the edge of town to head toward my house and looked up at the sky to see the beginning of the almost full moon (full today on February 5) shrouded in secrecy due to the clouds.
All of these images reminded me of a drive home many years ago at a time that the corporation I worked for had an office building about 20 miles from my home. I would take a scenic route along the backwaters of the Illinois River, drive through what we, in the Illinois Valley area, affectionately call “The Curves” that wind through Starved Rock State Park and then along fields until I arrived home. Fall, Winter, and Spring, during dusk and night times, you have to be especially watchful for deer on the side of the road, hoping they won’t dart out in front of the car.
One very dark evening, with no moonlight, on my drive home I was being careful to watch each side of the road. I said to myself “just because you can’t see the deer, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, so be careful!” Instantly I pondered that as a reflection on God as well. There are moments that God feels right next to me, nudging and pointing the way, and other times that I have to stop and look hard, wondering where God might be. But my faith tells me, God is in fact there regardless of the circumstances of the moment.
This past week we celebrated the memorial of Irish Saint, St Brigid of Kildare. Her feast also marks the cross-quarter day of the Celtic celebration of Imbolc, which means in the belly of the Mother. It is the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox, a time when all within begins to rumble and stir to life. The Celts believe that these special days are threshold days or days when the veil between the sacred, spiritual world and the physical world is thinner and the spiritual realm more accessible. Like lighting a votive candle in a church, lighting a candle and placing a scarf out for St. Brigid to touch as she passes by, symbolize a belief in the great communion of saints standing by to intercede on our behalf. Most of us don’t see or hear them with actual vision or sound. But not seeing doesn’t diminish my belief in their heavenly aid.
Last year I purchased Braving the Thin Places by Julianne Stanz. It’s a fantastic book that presents numerous ideas for cultivating moments of grace with God by embracing Celtic Christian wisdom. In one of my favorite sections of the book, Julianne reminds us that silence can speak volumes. She writes that children are especially good at seeing beyond what is spoken given their growing vocabularies, being able to imagine and hold on to a sense of wonder, and to celebrate simple moments like walking barefoot in the grass or dirt.
I recall going to my father’s gravesite with my nephew just after his burial. The plot was still dirt covered. My nephew, six years old, stuck his finger deep down in the dirt and said he wanted to touch grandpa one more time. He believed it and in that moment, so did I. For that brief moment, we were in a threshold space, a thin space of touching the sacred world beyond the physical.
I hope this week brings you moments of sensing the sacred in daily moments, moments that you feel the presence of the Divine even when you can’t see it.
Matthew Klein has a great drone video of “The Curves” on his Facebook page. Visit his website for more information about his photography and films, as well as links to his Facebook and Instagram pages.
Starved Rock State Park is a lovely park to visit if you are in the Illinois Valley area. For more info visit their website.