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Love songs from Mother Earth

I realized in college how much my soul finds peace from the sound of waves crashing. Despite the circumstances or the day, I step onto a beach and feel an inward sigh, releasing things I did not know were bottled.

The water is my therapy, massaging out the knots of life’s pressures I inadvertently carry. It is my church, uniting me with the creative energy of life’s Source. It is my home, cradling me in the sea of the familiar and the unknown, the constant and the changing.

It reminds me too of my dad, connecting us through a shared love not often tapped, as our times on beaches together are too few.

Yesterday was one of those remembering days, with time in the sunshine and on the ocean bringing me back to myself.

“Hello, beauty” I whispered. “Look at how radiant you are when you let the Earth kiss you.”

We took a boat out to a rocky point where the seals live and- costumed like them with wetsuits and flippers- swam amongst our furry friends. I kept inhaling salt water as I flipped and twisted in the water, mimicking their fluid movement while forgetting about my snorkel mask.

It was a majestic experience to be surrounded by another mammal in their environment, on their turf. A guest in a stranger’s land, I felt honored to be included. If I joined too quickly, I could see them startle and distance themselves just as fast. But, when I was calm and waited for them to come to me, within minutes I’d be enclosed in a circle of seals swimming and dancing around me. They swam up to me from below and would do a sort of backflip within an arm’s reach. Their carefree and graceful movement was playful and flirtatious, a reflection on contentment offered with their every move.

It was a gift to encounter another marvel of the Universe in such an intimate way.

There is a cheesy 90’s worship song I find myself connecting to frequently here in Plettenberg Bay, its lightness mirroring my spiritual experience:

Waves of mercy, waves of grace
Everywhere I look, I see Your face
Your Love has captured me
Oh my God , this Love, how can it be?
Oh Lord, how it can be? Yeaaaah

From my short time with the seals, I am struck by the verse: “everywhere I look, I see Your face.” I am prompted to see the face of God in the beauty that surrounds, to let Her caress me with every moment’s inspiration. To return to the oceanfront, and to breathe in the sweet aroma of peace.

Moments in time

On a run with scholars a few weeks ago, we rounded a corner on the winding road and came to a clearing in the fields with a perfect view of the rising sun, its pink hues casting a halo around the surrounding clouds. I nearly stopped running, overtaken by the beauty. In Rwanda, they say the sun greets you hello. This is precisely what I received.

“Kodak moment!” A scholar proclaimed. Another agreed, adding he wished that he had his camera.

I grimaced at the far reaches of advertising. Stupid Kodak- hijacking our moments.

I understand the sentiment. There are those moments in time- snapshots of living- I hope to hold onto. I feel this desire here
most often with my homestay siblings.

Today, as we made an impromptu dance to the jukebox in our heads, I hoped I’d remember the delight on their faces. Yesterday, when we threw the tennis ball high in the air to see who would catch it when it fell back down, I yearned to bottle the contagious ecstasy of the children’s laughter. Last week, as I was greeted with a giant group-hug of all of my siblings and neighborhood children, I wished my mind were a camcorder that could play the moment on repeat.

But, these moments are not meant to be captured and held. The feelings they invoke cannot be contained on a two-dimensional screen or glossy paper. I’ll carry them, certainly. Yet, even dwelling on them will not serve us well.

Their magic is in the experience of being fully present to what is before me. As we communed with the sun, time stood still. When I connect with the children, responsibility, worry- the past and the future- fall away. Only now stands, boldly and brightly, yoking the mundane and divine, aligning head, heart, and will in a resounding yes.

In the proclamation that it is a “Kodak moment,” we bring our construct of time to the forefront of our minds, reminding ourselves that there will be a time when the present is but a memory. We whisk away our presence to what is in our insistence on grabbing for what might not be.

So, while I understand this desire, I don’t want to live a series of camera clicks, but instead remain within a continuum of present moments. I hope to put my camera down, to not experience life behind the shield of a lens, but with my eyes wide open, my heart welcoming the now, trusting the not yet and not again to be their own moments, beckoned and rooted by my every breath.

Waking up

When I left Tanzania, one of the things I missed most was knowing if it was time to rise by the birds’ calls. The one that would normally cause me to stir meant that I had an hour left to nestle deep into my sleeping bag. And the bird who was my true wake up call would begin its tune just minutes before my classmate, Bethany, came to my tent to wish me good morning and give me a five minute warning until our shared morning prayer.

It was not the birds precisely that I longed for once residing back in the States, but rather the connection to nature.

I missed the feel of the earth on my feet, the familiarity of the sun’s arch, the visibility of the stars blanketing the heavens. Its not that I do not enjoy these things from the U.S., but my life is not in sync with them there.

Today, I am struck by the beauty of aligning my clock to Mother Earth’s, waking and sleeping with the sun’s rise and fall as I do here.

To write my blogs, I found a special place here in Nkomangwa. I leave my home and head away from the village and towards the fields, which quilt the hills and stretch towards Lake Muhazi. Just at the lake, the path veers upwards back to many homes in the neighboring community. At the peak of the hill is my sacred space: a patch of grass between the maize with a view of the glassy water below.

I come here to read and to write, to meditate and to pray. Mostly, I come to listen to the birds sing.

And I am not sure of the distinction between any of these activities, as my listening melds into my creating, my feet growing roots that reach deep into the soil of Life’s source.

Knowing the earth, intimately and tenderly, awakens a song within. On my patch of grass in the hills of Nkomangwa, I sing and I fly, joining the birds who welcome me home.