This past Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, I found myself in the mood for a walk – a long one. I could have gone anywhere, but given the nature of traffic on a holiday, decided to leave the car parked and remain in town. The resulting meander included some road walking beside Bantam Lake, along trails that led to a hilltop meadow with distant views of a cloud-mottled landscape, then deep into woods fully dressed in summer green. I rounded lush, deep wetlands, and passed through cool, shaded pine groves.
Mostly, I was able to be alone and in good quiet. The prayer of walking on this day was a listening prayer. That kind always seems best because its source really doesn’t need much in the way of input from me. It knows. More importantly, I don’t. In silence I can realize this at depth, chastened and humbled by what surrounds me as I move through it. Sometimes, actual answers will come from these attempted flights into stillness. At other times, there is but a vague sense that something has shifted around, and what remains is to rest in knowing all is well. Such was the case on Saturday. Rest then.
Reflecting on this as I walked, I began to consider this place in which I live; a place that allows for such wanderings on any day in any season. I first came to the northwest corner of Connecticut as a 12 year-old on a vacation, next as I ran errands for an employer the summer before leaving for service in the Navy. I remember thinking back then how much I longed to live here, but couldn’t say why. Knowing comes from the underneath of things - must have been an early lesson in that. But perhaps there was some conditioning, some softening and opening of the heart required first.
I’ve lived here for eight years now. My ninth spring is nearly behind me, the solstice coming soon. Of all the places I’ve lived, never have I loved one more. I had finally arrived here seeking refuge from a savage emotional storm of loss and change I could not yet even fully comprehend. It may, in hindsight, have been an unreasonable expectation of something so fleeting as place. The fact that it didn’t let me down has made it, at last, home. I travel from here. I return. I stray and then re-center, always here. I center in the quiet of the forest in the still air of summer, and lakeside when the ice is thick and sunrise makes it moan and rattle and echo against the hills all around. I center in the resting autumn chill when everything exhales and the colors make my heart hurt. I center in the great commotion of the wind and rain that brings on the springtime. And it was just down the road from my place that the calling to the Camino de Santiago came to me in mid-step while walking.
To be so inextricably linked to a place seems odd to me in one sense, yet in another I think I’m being shown that I am inseparable from everything. Everything.