It isn't easy for me to discerrn God's will for my life or to comprehend the guidance I do get. I'm too ready to mull over it, to overexamine it. I went for a walk today. It was a wonderful day as the temperatures had soared to 74 degrees by mid-afternoon.
As I began my walk, I began the way Sister Ellie taught us, except that I was walking faster than she recommended. I began with a short prayer and then I reminded myself to empty my mind, to walk, to let thoughts occur to me, to look at them and then drop them. Taking my own council, then, I reminded myself to look for those small gifts that God offers me especially when I am outside. Then I began to walk, allowing my gaze to go where it willed, to watch in a detached fashion the goings on in the park.
I saw kids playing in the park. I saw teenagers gathering into a large group. I noted that the wind was strong and pushed against me as I walked into it. My mind wouldn't stay empty for long but it wouldn't muse either, so it was a good exercise.
I often walk along a trail around a park. It is almost a perfect mile around. Approaching the first turn with my eyes observing a small boy, but thinking nothing more about him, I felt mysteriously as though I wasn't a part of the scene--all feeling and no thought, it vanished as soon as it presented itself. I made the first turn and then the second. With the wind now behind me and on the far side of the park so that the trees were windward, I began to note the leaves--millions of leaves, it seemed--blown out of their winter hiding holes or off the limbs they'd never been torn from before. I thought, "That's it. I'm like a leaf blown from the tree and blowing in the wind." But then I thought, "No. Because the leaves are dead." I watched one dance across the path as though doing a cartwheel. I saw the teens had begun a game of football and watched a pass.
Feeling less as though God was giving me gifts and more and more as though I was just reviewing many of my life's lessons, I came back around to the final turn of the mile. It was then that I looked ahead and thought--this is just a loop and I'm stuck in it. I need to break out of the loop. But I didn't like that direction. It goes up past the vast high school parking lot--empty for the holiday--and it looked bleak, but I took it anyway. In the last square of still green grass under the last tree before the lot, I saw a squirrel sitting upright nibbling on something. Even in bleakness, there is life. I had not seen a single squirrel in the whole walk around the park. It is usually teaming with them.
Behind me, a house owner yelled at the receding back of his teenaged son and made me jump around to see the disgruntled scene. It jarred me. I know the man, but I preferred to turn my head and hope he didn't recognize me as I hurried up the sidewalk. I thought about the walk and how I used to walk that way every day one summer when I took summer school. My friend and I would walk up to a donut shop at the top of that hill. I couldn't remember if the walk had even then been half concealed by loose gravel or if that was a new thing. The wind continued to push me up the hill. There, in the middle of that blacktopped expanse without a tree in sight, I saw a maple leaf fall as though from nowhere. I looked and didn't see any other leaves. The uphill steepened until I reached the corner and I turned just across from the old donut shop and walked down the north side of the football stadium. The stadium blocked the wind, but the tall fence hemmed me in and limited my vision.
As I neared the final turn that would take me back to the park and my car, a German shepherd ran to the corner of his yard and began to bark at me aggressively--in my mind I responded, "Peace . . . I'm not coming your way." Before the thought was complete, he'd turned and run out of sight. I didn't see or hear him again.
I looked behind me at the fence-lined sidewalk and noted that it had been a comfortable downhill slope protected from the wind and peaceful. Then I walked past the end zone of the football field where so many stop to watch the game, then past the baseball field, then approached the teachers parking lot. I noted the sign, "Do not enter," and puzzled over having noted it--do not enter what? A bleak and empty parking lot? I passed by the entrance and observed the granite sign donated so long ago in 1980, seven years after I had graduated from that school. That's the entrance, I thought. And let it drop. I crossed the street and spied my car. Heading for it I thought, "If there was anything there, I missed it."
Once home, as I climbed out of the car, something seemed to say, "Things aren't always what they seem." And that is all I know. But of that, I feel certain.