By The River Side

image A few days ago I experienced a beautiful and blessed day. I thought I’d share a picture and a few words about it with you in this blog post.

The day included much – but a river, blades of grass, sunshine and God’s gentle touches all figure prominently.

The day was especially appreciated as my experience of God of late has been, well, let’s just say, He’s been seemingly quite remote. And it was after a few weeks of physical and spiritual suffering, that I won’t detail here as we each have our own variety, that these events unfolded.

It was a sunny but brisk fall day in rural New Mexico. It was one of those days when each event and encounter seemed especially created for me in love. Even the little meditation spot along the river I stumbled upon seemed to be carefully prepared with clean, fresh and dry hay. Such a place to sit. Just sit.

Perhaps it WAS all prepared for me? The God of my understanding is like that, you know. Loving, providential, present. Have you ever had such a day?

I sat on the side of the river bank and meditated. Just sitting.

Once, on a months long retreat at a Benedictine monastery in Vermont, it became difficult for me to sit and to meditate so I asked a friendly monk brother for help. I asked him what he thinks about when he is meditating. He responded by saying he tried not to think too much and he allowed himself to “just sit.” Sometimes when his mind wandered he would gently say to himself, “Just sitting.” And then he returned his attention to his breathing. I tried that on the side of this river. Just sitting.

When I opened my eyes after some time sitting, the nearby blade of grass jutting out into the air seemed to pulsate with the glory of God. It seemed for a moment all the mystery and beauty of nature was captured in that blade of grass. I could have meditated on that blade all afternoon.

“Heraclitus would have loved this river,” I thought to myself. He was known to have said, “You can’t step into the same river twice.” This river, flowing strong and always changing, reminded me of the impermanence of life.

When I considered the river with it’s flux and turbulence, I was also reminded of something I heard many years ago. God is in the rapids and in the flux as much as He is in the rocks and in the banks. No need to cling to safety and comfort. Let go. God is there.

I was captivated by all the beauty surrounding me near this river. The beauty didn’t seem to surround me so much as it penetrated me. It was moving through me. Piercing me.

All alone with God. It was a nice moment by the river side.

John Muir once wrote, “Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” Nature’s peace flowing into you as sunshine flows into trees and cares dropping off like autumn leaves. True this, eh?

Do you know the Rio Grande was called El Rio de Nuestra Señora before it was called “Big River?” I suspect it had an even more majestic name prior to that. Subsequent to being named El Rio de Nuestra Señora, it was called El Rio Bravo, The May River and even The Turbulent River. I like the name Our Lady’s River (El Rio de Nuestra Señora) best, how about you?

As I carefully made my way up the river bank and back into civilization, a lone photographer walked by. A protective sun hat and a camera with a large lens indicated his pursuit. He said, “Beautiful colors and nice light today ‘eh?” I replied with a warm smile and a definitive, “Yes!” He recognized that my brief response was not an anti-social stance but rather a recognition, in silence, of the true awesomeness of the moment. He returned a smile and, understanding the moment, joined me in contemplating (alone but together) El Rio, the Cottonwood trees and the desert cacti at the base of The Mountains of the Holy Day.

May your day today be filled with such an adventure, mystery and beauty. It’s all there.

Where is a spot that you find health, healing and a communion with the Divine? Please share by leaving a comment.

52 thoughts on “By The River Side

  1. The beauty of your writing always astonishes me. You have such a gift with words. I can almost hear you telling me this story as I read it. I am blessed to know you and envy your travels. When the kids are all done with High School, I am going on a cross country trip! Here is to adventure and communion with the Divine!

  2. Hi Andrew!

    Your reflection was beautiful! I would wholeheartedly encourage you to keep writing such reflections. I like that it was tied to nature in its simplicity & ordinariness yet profound truth. To see with the eyes of the heart is to recognize that Eden is everywhere. Thanks for sharing your day by the river with me.

  3. Very nice! And something I can totally relate to because nature is what I seek when I need to be with God in a quiet place. When I want glorious noise, I sing. But when I want quiet time with Him, I go to the woods, or a field – somewhere off the beaten path. I once went on a hike to a rocky outcropping at 4600 ft. in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The view was stunning and the only sound was the wind blowing through the pines behind and below me. I could easily have spent the whole day there. Some day I’ll go back there.

  4. Andrew,

    Once again, I marvel at your writing! I am grateful for your warm welcome to the readers of your blog to join you by the river side. Reading this latest post reminded me to look more deeply at nature yesterday. A quick thunderstorm, double rainbows and a magnificant sunset illuminating the storm clouds with a rosy pink hue was my reward! I thank you for reminding me of the gift of nature that God has given to each of us, if we but stop and appreciate it!

    I am blessed to find expected and unexpected places that I find healing and God’s peace, just as I did yesterday at sunset.

    Kathy

  5. Andrew,

    What a gift you have to be able to paint such a vivid picture with words. I think you’re right in that God prepared some extra special things for you on this “quiet” Fall day by the river side. What a wonderful reflection on a beautiful day! 🙂

    Your post reminds me of how much I have learned to appreciate simple things in life. Things like waking up with the ability to breathe fresh, clean air, the sound of birds singing, taking barefoot, long walks – soaking in the beauty of God’s creation, planting things and watching them grow, listening to the laughter of my boys, sitting around the dinner table with my family, the gentle encouragement and love expressed by a friend, the peace of stillness and quiet…
    I find God in all these things and more.

    I pray that you continue to find comfort in the simple, quiet things- and may your journey be as smooth as God’s grace allows.

    God bless you, friend!

    1. God’s grace always sustains us and gives peace like no other…no matter what we face on our journey.
      Sorry if my last statement was confusing. I know what I meant, but not sure it came across right. 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing, I think you write beautifully. I also have had a epiphany type of occurrence happen to me. I understand what you mean about the meditation; even the colors can appear brighter, the sky bluer the sun warmer.
    I read your other ‘blog pieces’ thank you. May we all have peace and fresh clean air to breathe.

  7. You certainly have a gift for writing. How many are God’s gifts to us: If only we would take time to notice and enjoy them! You certainly do. Thanks for sharing this.

    For some reason your meditation reminds me of an experience I had at Little Portion Hermitage. One morning as my time there was ending I was preparing to return home. The air was extremely still. One might think of it as paralyzed. I looked up at a tree and all its leaves were dead still save one. One leaf was continuously turning and fluttering about its petiole. I looked at this marvelous sight for a few minutes and the motion never ceased even though all the other leaves were totally still. That leaf had the ability to respond to the smallest and otherwise imperceptible breeze. My thought was, this is how our spirits are supposed to be, very sensitive and responsive to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

  8. Andrew,

    Pretty cool site. 🙂

    Just learning the name of the site is “thoughts from the desert,” paints a great picture for me, as I think of the ideas, experiences that I have had in my own desert.

    Let me know when you add an update.

    Best,

    ~Chris

  9. Andrew, thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts. You’re so right, taking time to be still is so important and something that’s hard to do in this busy, noisy world. I love spending time in creation, even if it’s just my backyard where I can hear the leaves rustling and watch the squirrels chase each other. =) It reminds me that our God is a God of Peace. I want my inner self to always be at rest in God’s care, at peace, Shalom. I’m so thankful for creation which whispers to us of the greatness of our God. Thanks again for reminding us of that today.
    Many blessings to you my friend!

  10. “God set his Singers upon the earth
    With songs of sadness and of mirth,
    That they might touch the hearts of men,
    And bring them back to heaven again.”
    – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow –

    I’m glad you found a spot and a simple thing that made God’s omnipresence so true and apparent to you again.

    For me, it is the sounds and sights during the darkest deep of night. The call of a lone barred owl looking for a companion or perhaps communing himself with the Creator. The stars veiled and mysterious, transcending space and time to give meaning to the sky, albeit a beacon of the true glory of the heavens.

  11. Andrew, you seem to have mastered not only the art of being still but of describing the beauty in the moment! Just as acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton has enticed me to learn to hear nature without actively listening, you have inspired me to experience the spirit of the Earth by, as you say, “Just sitting.” Thank you.

  12. Very nice, Andrew. I have experienced similar situations and I felt I was right there with you…and, having done so, feel peaceful and serene in this moment. Thank you for sharing this. You write so very, very well. I think, even if I’d not experienced similar, I would feel this from your words.

  13. Thank you for sharing this Andrew.
    These are transformative and nourishing experiences.
    We all need places in nature and time to sit, reflect, contemplate, and just quietly be with what is, to feel the inherent peace and love…
    Thank you again…

  14. Andrew,
    If you ever wonder why you have MCS, just remember that you are truly a gift to the MCS Community. The environmentally ill need you to remind us that God is in control and HE is the source of all healing. Please continue to shine your light on all of us. I feel blessed that God crossed our paths.

  15. Andrew,
    Beautiful! Just what I needed to hear today. I apologize for just getting to read it now. No other reason than flying by the seat of my pants. While reading your beautiful words, I felt the peace of your quiet moment and pictured myself there feeling God’s love. Thank you. It may have taken me a long time to read this blog but God’s timing was perfect! God bless you!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your blog with me! This was just what I needed today! As I closed my eyes, I could see the river, hear the rushing water and all of God’s beauty in nature! Its been quite a few years since we’ve been to the desert, but oh how majestic, serene and peaceful it was! The perfect place for “just sitting” so you say. Love that! You see that’s what I do every morning! I just sit and look out over the top of our embankment overlooking the woods. I think about my upcoming day and how can I make someone smile that day. Its the simple things that really count, right? I’ve been struggling with this lately. I’ll be honest, its hard to always see the bright side when life throws you a curve ball! I’ve been a caregiver for my very best friend who’s battling lung cancer. Its been a real tough few months and I’ve tried to be uplifting and positive but its hard! The other day as I say in my garden I asked God to send me a sign that everything was going to be ok! I tried to think of all the ways I might cheer up my dear friend and felt the loss of our more adventurous times together! I closed my eyes took a deep breath and felt God in nature as I like to say. The cool breeze, the russle of the leaves as the squirrels scamper around to stock up nuts and seeds for winter, my beloved birds chirping happily and the wonderful sun on my face! I felt so much better after thinking how lucky and blessed I am! As I turned around to go back in to get ready for my day, there it was! My sign from God! One tiny little rosebud booming! And you know that nothing blooms in late November in New England. There is was on the bare rose canes. My sign that all will be ok! My very own smile for the day! Thank you for sharing your stories and I hope I’ve given you a smile for the day!

  17. The blade of grass. “Piercing”. The infinite importance and power of every blade of grass, acorn, insect and being. Thank you, Andrew.

  18. Andrew,
    Your reflection is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with me. We all get so caught up in the daily distractions of life and it is important to take these moments to really see the beauty of the world around us and to feel His presence. Keep writing – you have a gift!

  19. Very nice reflection – I especially enjoyed the reminder about God being in the rapids and not just in the solid banks – our life! Remembering that God is always there is an important lesson indeed. I also like to be near water – I find it truly does help with the reminder that we are just small beings here doing the will of our awesome God.

  20. Thanks for sharing your experiences Andrew!
    God has a way of delivering moments designed for the benefit and pleasure to those willing to receive them.
    It is always a blessing to be captured in those instances, as it is an acknowledgement of His presence.
    I look forward to hearing more of those special moments God has in store for you!

  21. Andrew, thanks for sharing this with me. Such beautiful and healing thoughts. I’d been feeling sad and bored and someone reminded me that if I had lost that feeling of wonder about God’s great universe that I just need knock on the door of the Source of all wonder. Thanks for providing me with today’s knock!

  22. Hi Andy,

    You have an amazing gift of painting beautiful pictures with words. As I read your blog it created a peace within me. Please keep sharing.
    Thank you, Wendy

  23. Your words are pictures that soothe the soul… I love the reminder that GOD is in the the rapids and in the flux as much as He is in the rocks and in the banks. Nature for me always reveals GODs GLORY.

    King David wrote many of his boyhood glorious psalms while shepherding his flock and absorbing sights and sounds next to a brook to viewing the stars and heavens above to contemplating GOD while listening to the majestic roars of thunder….

    Nature provokes our artists and poets to see GOD so clearly and glorify him for His creation..

    I for one am happy GOD created the artist in you Andrew that articulates His beauty to me from so far away…

  24. Hi Andrew…This is beautiful and well written and I understand that spiritual feeling, that over whelming feeling of the beauty and awe of nature. And it is so awesome. I am not and never have been, a religious person. I don’t believe in a God but I do believe in the power of the Universe, the majesty of nature and I feel it. After 24 yrs of dealing with MCS/EI, it comes down to the basics and that, I love. My view from the back gate is my special place and basically my whole property. I am where I am meant to be, for some reason. My whole life led me to this place and it feels right. 🙂

  25. Andrew, this writing took me into contemplation. It reminded me of my times at the Jesuit Retreat Center when I would go and do the Ignatian Exercises.

    Your writing is beautiful and comes alive. I could imagine sitting by the water. I have experienced times and places and experiences that I felt were made just for me and my time alone with Jesus. Wow, seems to be a long time ago. It reminds me that I must slow down and just be in the Presence of the Lord.

    Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!

    Peace and all good in Jesus and Mary,

    Susan

  26. Very beautiful Andrew. I remember as a child riding horses in similar places. Very peaceful and full of God’s Blessings. I love nature and being able to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city I live in. I go home to Globe to get away and see nature at it’s finest. I am glad to hear you are at peace. I will for sure keep reading your blogs. They are truly inspiring!!!

  27. Nice post and great blog overall. I see you’re getting a nice readership.

    The only negative comment I have is ‘Heraclitus’ — GRRRRR. hated that philosopher. He was the reason I received my lowest grade in college ever (a ‘C’ in Philosophy).

    As far as a spot that I find health, healing and a communion with the Divine’, I’d say it’s when driving with the radio off or at Mass before Mass starts — that’s only when the Church is quiet before Mass starts. Too many Churches in PXH are too loud before Mass and people are chatting like their at a High School assembly.

  28. Great stuff, I always look forward to reading your blog. Thank you for sharing it!

    You can never step in the same river twice. So good. Really great stuff!!

  29. A blessed Advent to you Andrew,

    Thank you for alerting me to your blog. I enjoyed reading about your day at the river.

    I find communion with God in the mass and in Eucharistic Adoration. As a recent Catholic convert, I am blessed to have daily mass available at any Catholic parish I choose to go.

    Additionally, many parishes have Eucharistic Adoration perpetually or on certain days. I took the plunge over a year ago and am a scheduled adorer each Tuesday from noon till one. God is very palpable there. The True Presence is there – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In blocking out the noises of everyday life, I can listen and hear God.

  30. Lovely!!! Yes, I have had a day where it seemed God had prepared it just for me. I agree our God is like that, and it amazes me!! “What is man, that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8) The One Who created the stars knows each one of us!! My “spot” is the Black Hills of South Dakota, and I’m so grateful God is allowing me to live here for now.

  31. This is a very thoughtful and beautiful reflection, Andrew. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in His Apostolic Exhortation, “Verbum Domini,” the Lord reveals His Word in the truth, goodness and beauty of creation. The heavens and the earth proclaim the glory of God. My hope and prayer for you is that God will continue to bless you in your meditations on His creation and that you will continue to be inspired to write about this. Peace and blessings!

  32. Sometimes, the beauty is there. We just need to reopen our eyes. It will become evident only when we are ready.

  33. Andrew, so happy to hear from you. Your writing is phenomenal. It reminds me of Joyce Rupp’s or Richard Rohr’s messages. Merry Christmas. Helen
    PS. I don’t do Facebook, usually, – just email.

  34. Thank you for this. I find God in the most unexpected places. In the sauna, which is a warm and safe place for me. In my child, perhaps most of all. But almost always, too, in nature…at the beach or mountain biking in the woods.

    Beautiful.

  35. Not far from my city place is a trail beside a large river. I bus to a bridge an hour’s walk away, then walk home along the river. It’s woodsy yet safe with houses nearby, the answer to a prayer when I found it, needing to escape the city but being unable to travel. One day as I walked, the word “home” filled my mind, along with that feeling, of being at home there in nature
    , where it is quieter, away from the hustle and bustle of city traffic. I am comforted to have this sanctuary so expressive of what God is, accessible and just perfect. Another time three swans came by the public dock where a gospel choir friend and I played guitar; they drew close together, heads almost touching, like a flower with three petals. I was reminded of the Trinity and loved this demonstration of God’s nature. (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151041575202650&l=96e15ebe3e.) When my friend and I sing there, sitting right over the water on the dock, we marvel at having found this cottage-like atmosphere in the middle of the city; I thank God for it and to know His helps are real and tangible, not just abstract concepts.

  36. Andrew, your words expressed so well the experience you had. I could very easily imagine sitting at the river meditating, and how lovely it was. I have had such experiences through my spirituality as well. I am a Buddhist and have done many hours of chanting meditation.

    Thank you for sending me this link.

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