It’s late October in San Antonio, which means that we are bathed in golden light, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon. It’s as if we are being actively reminded of the divine Glory that brings all into being, and sustains every particle of creation. Walking around the yard in the late afternoon sun, my vision is literally dazzled—the light is such that I sometimes have to duck my head, or use sunglasses.
In addition, we are in the midst of the annual migration of monarch butterflies. Once the nectars have warmed on the blue spires indigo, the Turk’s cap, the salvia greggii, the bright orange cosmos, the butterfly bush, the Mexican sunflowers, the monarchs swirl around in bright winged clouds, stopping to sip, then gently wafting to another blossom. While Doug and I watch, there’s a gentle constant motion—not frenetic, not even busy. The monarchs move with a kind of floating elegance. They are being joined by a host of other butterflies—sulphurs, viceroys, Gulf fritillaries, swallowtails--to name a few.
It is within this larger context that I gaze out from our porch and pray for this country and this Earth. We have lived through a week that saw pipe bombs sent to Democratic leaders, 11 Jews killed in a synagogue while worshipping, two African Americans murdered out of hate.
I, for one, need the balance of this gentle backyard life. Digging and weeding, trimming and planting have always helped me settle inside. My intercessions float up from within as the manual labor helps me sweat out the frustrations. I need the balance of physical labor and reflection, housework and creative endeavor. Out of that balance, action arises. It’s sort of like a seed cracking open, and some unexpected plant springing forth.
Over 25 years ago, when I first started studying Celtic Christianity, I ran across this simple prayer, offered in the outer Hebrides when a new moon was sighted:
“The One who made thee, made me likewise.”
The years’ long use of that prayer, springing up when I see a monarch or a fall aster or an unknown vine, has led me to “hear” that prayer internally in relationships with others. The prayer, formed and practiced in the garden, carries forth into the larger garden of human interaction. It doesn’t necessarily give me a program to solve the ills and violence of this world. It does remind me that everything comes from the divine Source that we name as Trinity, and everything—yes, everything—eventually returns to that Source.
The butterfly’s life is short. An adult monarch lives about a maximum of six weeks. And then all of that beauty, all of that stunning ability to fly and float, expires. The natural world reminds me that life is short. The natural world points me, as the sacrament that it is, to the One in whom we live and move and have our being. And leads me to pray, “The One who made thee, made me likewise.”