I preached last weekend on “a conversation with creation,” featuring the remarkable place Star Island on the coast of New Hampshire whose winter caretaker, Alexandra deStigeur, is featured in this short documentary, Winter’s Watch.
I had preached a version of this sermon two years ago but after a year where so many people have experienced solitude, isolation and seclusion, I thought it would be worthwhile to edit and revisit. It’s one thing to consider the richness of solitude and connecting more with creation and your own inner life when you’re out and about fully in whatever social life you’ve got going, and entirely another matter when you’re living through a pandemic.
This quote from poet David Whyte rang a big bell for several parishioners who requested a copy of it, and I was happy to oblige because his framing of what constitutes a conversation is spiritually valuable. Here’s what I wrote, and what he said:
“Another of those muses of solitude is poet David Whyte. A few years ago, he was a guest on “The Lonely Hour Podcast” (host Julia Bainbridge) and he said something that resonates for me more now than when I first heard it in 2017:
I think one of the difficulties of today is that we put all of our eggs in one basket in that we try to hold the conversation entirely through human forms, and yet throughout our evolution as human beings, we’ve always held a conversation with a multiplicity of qualities,
like with the blue of the sky, or the red in the sunset in the evening
or the movement of leaves, you know, at the very top of a silent wood when the breeze is coming through.
The sound of an owl in the evening.
The smell of grass, the feel of a summer breeze on your skin.
These are all conversations; these are actually all qualities and it’s just very strange that we’ve defined the fact that you’re just not in conversation with another human being as being ‘alone.’
You’re not alone. You’re just not paying attention to these other thousands of qualities that we’ve co-evolved with over the thousands of years.
So one of the reasons we’re lonely is we’ve forgotten that we have a friendship with the sky, we have a friendship with the ground, we have a friendship with our bodies, we have a friendship with the way our bodies respond to the natural world.