Every year I go to a quiet place for a one week silent directed retreat to nurture my own connection with Spirit. (A silent directed retreat is one where I am quiet all day except for a one hour a day meeting with my spiritual companion, called a spiritual director.) In fact, I spent my 50th birthday week in such a place (http://prairiewoods.org). I love the quiet, the stillness that develops over the week, the rest, and the learnings that stay with me as I go back about my daily life. It’s the week I talk to God, I tell my granddaughter. What I don’t say, because she is young, is that I really come to listen.
This year was different. You see, part of my active listening to God meant usually bringing something to DO. I’m an artist and a crafter – I sew, I quilt, I knit – all sorts of textile arts. I have done this since I was very young, and have rarely stopped. I enjoy doing something with my hands. It’s relaxing, and it can be challenging or artistic or meditative at the same time.
I’ve sewn my way through grief, crocheted an afghan during a stressful personal time, and knit socks instead of turn on the TV. It’s my play. In good times and bad times, it’s always there for me, it’s always the same, and at the same time there’s always something new to learn that engages my brain in a different way. It’s a passion. So when I go to my annual retreat weeks, I bring some crafty projects along to help me work through whatever has come up. For me, it’s a way of allowing my heart and soul to process the ever-deepening relationship with my God, and my hands are busy.
I’m lucky, my husband understands my obsession, as his passion is golf, as it has been since he was first given a set of golf clubs when he was 12. Many years later, he is not tired of the game, it’s relaxing and meditative and challenging all at the same time. Whether he is wrestling with a personal or spiritual issue, or socializing or competing, he goes golfing. He absorbs the game as if it were the food he needed to live.
Only this year, as I mentioned, was different. I arrived at my week with tendonitis in both hands. I had to leave everything behind, and even cautioned on how to properly read a book without using the swollen tendons. UH? What? OK, what has this in store for me? I was lost for a day or two, challenging me to not DO and just BE.
And so, in BE-ing, gazing into the woods, I noticed a deer. Beautiful creature, glistening where the sun is hitting her back. The slim legs and graceful step as she bent down to eat something, and then glanced up. She came closer, and then looked straight at me. I told her she was beautiful and thanked her for her presence. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another deer peeking from the woods into the clearing. Just peeking. It was crouched low, carefully watching the first deer. Then, suddenly and with a huge burst of energy, the other deer bounced out of the woods, much as a child would: “Surprise!” The first deer jumped up, startled. They played. They ran and jumped. A third deer joined them. I was witnessing the magic of nature at play. I felt a part of it, my brother and sister the deer and I. And it was so with the birds in the garden, and the bunnies on the woodland trail. In the wind, the leaves on the trees seem to play as they reflected the sunlight. Nature at play seemed to be everywhere I looked.
Play is vital to all living beings. The deer were being deer. My husband is authentic to who he is on the golf course, as I am when I am engaged in the play of textiles. And just as authentic as I am listening to my God. It is about the time we both take to just be who we are, which in turn helps us to become more authentic with each other and with other people in our lives. Yes, I might have been concentrating on sewing instead of gazing outside, missing those magical moments. And I might not have. That’s not the point here. The space I’d been given to ponder my idle, painful hands gave me instead a new appreciation for them and all they do for me. They will heal, and I’ll be back on the knitting needles soon enough.
Do you have a passion that carries you through your life? And if you say: yes, my kids or my husband, or drinking alcohol with my buddies – that doesn’t qualify. You can’t have another person as your hobby. It’s not fair to you and it’s certainly not healthy for the people in your life. This is more personal; this is you and the craft or activity, such as basketball, gardening, or reading. It’s a place, among many, you can become more fully yourself in relationship to the Spirit. It strengthens you by enabling you to rest in the play of it.
We grow and change and God continues to reach out to us. God delights in play, and we can see this in all of nature. To follow your passion fully is to also delight in it. Play in it. I’d love to help you find this passion. I’m also trained to help you in your own private directed retreat, if that part of this story attracted you. We can arrange something even if you can’t leave home for a week. You can find me at deb (at) debcannon (dot) com or 319 321 7195.