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Walking Our Faith: Finding the sacred in beauty

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” ― Julian of Norwich

Last Saturday morning, I hit off down the dirt road that leads from my home to the bus turn out on Colorado Highway 9. This is where the Summit Daily News box is found, and if you want a copy of that day’s paper, you need to get there in the morning. It’s a popular publication.

Kiki, my Newfoundland dog, didn’t want to join me for this short walk, perhaps because she will be turning 11 in October and her hips aren’t as nimble as they were. So she stayed behind. 

It’s only a 10-minute stroll, which I’ve made at least 100 times. But on Saturday — perhaps because I didn’t have a dog to keep me company for the first time in I don’t know how long — I decided to make a game of seeing how many different flowers I could photograph with my phone on this well-traveled road.

This added purpose to my walk. And it had the effect of slowing my course as I soon discovered that there were many different types of flowers to photograph once I actually turned my attention to noticing their presence.

There were rosy Indian paintbrush, bluebells in periwinkle blue, fireweed in a pink lavender, shrubby cinquefoil looking exactly as named with little yellow starbursts atop a bushy green shrub, and common gaillardia daisies as yellow as butter.

There’s a stream that runs through the wetlands behind the bus turnout, and I walked over to it to listen for a moment to the rushing waters, the sound of which was enough to cool me. And I recalled for a moment how Henry, another of my beloved Newfoundlands, loved to lay in the stream before we started our return trip.

I grabbed a newspaper and headed back up the hill toward home. My pace slowed as I embraced my search for flowers, stopping frequently and venturing off the dirt road to take more pictures.

By the time I reached my front door, my mood had become contemplative and my heart filled with a renewed sense of gratitude that I live among such beauty.  

Since my walk with flowers, I’ve been pondering why it created an immediate difference in how I was feeling. The calm I experienced stayed with me for the rest of the afternoon. During the week, each time I looked through the pictures I’d saved on my phone, I experienced the same uplift. And then there was the reminder that all of it was right outside my door, just waiting for me anytime I wanted. Even more inspiring is the knowledge that there are mountainsides carpeted with such beauty for the enjoyment of wild creatures, adventurous hikers and surely the creator of all of them.

What was that feeling?  Looking for flowers to photograph drew my thoughts away from my worries and preoccupations. My attention was drawn outward on a simple but lovely mission.

The mission required that I slow my walk, be willing to leave the familiar path, stop and look closely. It was as much a physical experience as mental. I felt grounded to the earth, to nature. My heart rate slowed, I’m sure my blood pressure lowered, and if I had any idea of what it meant, my brainwaves quieted. I imagine it was a form of walking meditation.

This morning, I was praying, and it occurred to me that prayer is a lot like my flower walk.

When I take time to just sit with God — not rush, not go through the motions, but just sit quietly with God — I experience the same peace, the same connectedness.

What do the two have in common? I believe it is an inherent reverence or awe that comes from being in the presence of something greater than ourselves. The silent acknowledgement of being in the presence of the holy sacred. Pure and complete in beauty and truth. I believe it is what our souls long for.

By stopping the endless chatter of my mind, I discover God’s quiet presence. I find love and peace by stepping outside my concerns. I notice that in God, love and peace are always present if I will only listen and look. That God created so much beauty for us to enjoy tells me that God loves beauty and loves us. We are surrounded by God’s sacred beauty. And his endless love and peace surround us, too.

 “And in this (God) showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.
In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.” ― Julian of Norwich, “Revelations of Divine Love

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.


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