I have made several visits to the Bird Sanctuary and Hoyt Arboretum located in Forest Park , Portland, Or. This is a wonderful wilderness-like area of the Southwest hills. Although this location is only minutes away from downtown, you feel like you are in a completely different place where nature abounds. The bird sanctuary ( now the Audubon Society Of Portland ) is 150 acres with four miles of trails going through a pristine wooded landscape.
I have gone to this site and have sat down on a bench and watched the Finches, Robins, Sparrows, Hummingbirds and Woodpeckers for hours as they fly, and engage with the one another and the environment.
Watching the birds in this serene environment of trees and woods is a calming experience.
There would be those who might say that this activity is not productive. You are not pouring over a spreadsheet, making phone calls, generating encounters or for that matter making money. You would be exactly right. This activity is not designed to produce a lot of wealth nor is it designed to accomplish a lot of organizational goals.
I would argue that watching colorful birds, listening to the sounds of chipmunks scurrying across the ground, and looking at clouds over head are very important activities. These experiences allow our brain to rest and soul to be soothed.
Jeffrey Rosen, legal scholar, who has taught at Yale and New York University observed in his book “The Unwanted Gaze (2000)
“ that people have their public and private space” Rosen was adamant that people needed to recapture and reclaim their private space. In other words, people do not need to be always “on”, instead we need “down time. “
Many of us may acknowledge that we are tethered to a lot of things, i.e. smart phones, computers, I-Pads, etc. There is a lot of stimulation out there that competes for our time and attention. The media also, with its twenty-four-hour coverage, demands our focus and the temptation to want to project that one is on top of all things that matter.
This is in great contrast to sitting alone in an Adirondack chair and looking at a lake. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Grand Marais,MN on Lake Superior, and this is exactly what I did. Here the focus was not on accomplishing anything; the desire was to sit and to take in the beauty and the quiet.
If you have children, particularly teenage children, they may reference this kind of experience as being “ boring”, it’s not exciting, its not “ fast and furious. “
You’re right! ; That not the point !
Doing nothing isn’t about speed; it’s about discovering the joy of being in the moment.
There are instances in the Gospels where Jesus is described as going off on his own to be alone , to rest and to pray. Even Jesus realized that he couldn’t possibly be “ on “ and be available to people all of the time.
In other words, there needed to be some alone time.
When I sit on my back porch and look out across my yard and property, I will see an occasional Cardinal, perhaps Blue Jay and see the squirrel scurrying up a tree.
Here again, I have those moments of being alone with my thoughts and realizing that God is ever present in this sacred moment.
May the continuing journey of Lent, of your excursion towards Easter, be one that can be marked by those moments that are just for you-to absorb and to be thankful for all of your days.
May it be so.