Walking Our Faith: Time well spent

“The grass will wither, the flowers will fade, but the word of God endures forever.” — Isaiah 40:8

The air was cool and dry. The cloudless sky was bluebird, and the atmospheric conditions gave us views that were crystal clear. All the better to appreciate the glorious gold-orange-red of groves of aspen trees and ragged, knife-sharp ridges of the Tenmile Range against cerulean skies.

The errands I ran Wednesday took me from my home in Alpine Breckenridge to the Dillon Nature Preserve Trailhead, where I caught a glimpse of sparkling lake waters and islands made prominent by receding water levels. Up and over Swan Mountain Road, it led me through golden fields of grass and by craggy brown cliffs.

At the end of the day, I took my two Newfoundland dogs, Bear and Kiki, for a walk to drink in the splendid fall colors at a slower pace, noticing the sun dipping behind the circling mountains earlier now. A reminder that in a few months I will be making this same walk on a dark, snowy early evening.

Yes, I want to drink in every glorious image that passes by because my iPhone photos pale in comparison to the beauty I see with my own eyes.

Still, our autumns are all too brief, lasting perhaps three weeks out of the 52 weeks of the year. To capture and store the plethora of beauty feels akin to drinking water out of a firehose.

Later in the evening, I began Benedictine nun Joanne Chittister‘s latest book, “The Monastic Heart: 50 Simple Practice for a Contemplative and Fulfilling Life.” The following quote caught my eye:

“It’s what you pay attention to in life that determines both your commitments and your happiness. One of the most important questions of life is: Where do I spend my time and what am I doing there? The second calls me back to where am I meant to be?”

I thought of my favorite annual autumn rituals of previous years: My annual drive over Boreas Pass under the canopy of aspens, and my final visit to the Blue Lakes reservoir before it closes for winter. It reminded me of not only how fleeting these weeks of autumn are each year but how fleeting the years themselves are. As I begin my seventh year as a resident of Breckenridge, I feel blessed to call this place home, and yet it feels as if I’ve just arrived.

With time’s effortless forward march, the quote from Chittister underlines the truth of how precious is each day, each year. Within our desperately short lifetimes, how we spend our lives deserves our attention.

As autumn’s end ushers in October, we see the pace of our lives increasing with Halloween trick-or-treating followed by Thanksgiving dinners and then Christmas holidays taking us through the end of the calendar year.

What in this busyness gives our lives meaning? Will we rush breathlessly through the days, ticking off accomplishment of tasks rather than savoring the people and familiar rituals for the significance they provide?

Pay attention, the fleeting beauty of the aspens warn us. Pay attention. In the bustle of our coming holiday season, as time seemingly speeds up, in one respect we need to slow down.

We must marshal our senses to notice the golden leaves turn to brown as the carpet they create on the forest floor turns pale gray. Notice the smell of wood smoke, now singular in the age of gas fireplaces. Notice crisp, cold air against our skin, only degrees different than the late summer chill but a harbinger of the bone-chilling cold of long winter nights.

Capture in your memory a smiling face lighted by candlelight that you have chosen to make part of a weekly family dinner.

As you hurry down Main Street, slow and notice the elderly man gently tossing a ball to his German shepherd also hobbled by age, and for a moment imagine how they love each other.

Sit outside on a late afternoon, close your eyes and listen for birdsong and children’s voices.

Think deeply about the relationships that give your life meaning. What do you do to cultivate them? Tell these important people how much they mean to you.

And what of your relationship with God? Pay attention for signs of God’s presence in your life. And if you find none, sit quietly and ask God to reveal himself to you. He will, I promise.

Pay attention. The saturated hues of our autumnal aspen pale next to the intentional life we are called to live with one another, and especially the transcendent relationship we are called to live with God.

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