Today was one of those beautiful summer days that follows a night of thunderstorms. I woke early for my morning walk, taking notice of the lush green cathedral of branches arching above me on the oldest block in my neighborhood where the tallest trees grow. I was feeling grateful for many things, not the least of which was that my Friday only held one meeting first thing in the morning, followed by time to catch up on all the unfinished business of the week stacked up on my desk.
My morning meeting was one I was looking forward to as well. It was taking me to one of my favorite places, a retreat center where I have spent time both in my own vocational discernment as well as supporting their educational programs around social justice and racial reconciliation. Today, I was meeting about connecting my students with these educational opportunities. But, I followed my inner urge to seize opportunity and arrive early in the hopes of spending a little quality time in the gardens pre-meeting.
Or, as my inner voice prompted me as I drove through downtown, to walk the labyrinth.
I arrived early enough to do both, and as I rang for entry I ran almost immediately into my colleague. Because we are cut from a similar cloth and have spent a fair amount of time talking about our respective spiritual journeys, I told him why I was early and he told me where to meet him after my labyrinth walk. But, before he sent me on my way he wanted to show me the latest arrival, a black stone sculpture of Madonna and child set in the back garden. We walked the path toward this magnificent and moving art work, and I was able to hear the story of her origins and installation. She was so completely captivating on such a beautiful morning in that garden, I could have easily spent my whole day in that space.
I felt a pull to the labyrinth, though, and knew I wanted to travel on this step-by-step reminder of my vocational journey. My journey which, in many ways, has been formed by contemplative walks over several years along these particular brick pathways. Whenever I am at Richmond Hill, I feel compelled to pay my respects for being the kind of welcoming space where the daily meets the divine.
I finished walking my winding path of contemplative prayer, and I followed the shady pathway back through the garden toward my meeting. I was in awe of the beauty of the day, of the replaced stained glass and refinished simple glory of a cloistered prayer cell at the edge of the grounds, of the light and shadows marking the foot-path. I arrived at my meeting exactly on time and we had a great discussion about vocational and educational programs as we had planned to do. At some point we got into a conversation about planning vs. journeying. It led to the sharing of a photo my colleague had received from a friend. It was an inadvertent life message in the form of a polite sign that essentially was saying, “Keep off the grass.” Instead, as you can see below, it offers the perfect advice:
I immediately thought of all the paths I had followed that morning…my neighborhood walk, my early arriving drive to my meeting destination, the path to Madonna and child, my one step after the other walk to the center of the labyrinth and back where I received clarity and insight as I always do. Now, I was sitting in even deeper awareness of how my own journeys of people and places and calling and vocation are winding paths that intersect with each other in the most graceful and beautiful ways. The wonder and joy of that journey is that I am not controlling it. The journey is unfolding step by step as I follow that sage advice: stay on the path.