This past weekend I attended a mini online-retreat guided by poet-photographer Pat Leyko Connelly. Pat is familiar to many on social media for the three-line “haiku prayers” she posts daily along with stunning photographs of scenes near her home in Vermont. Her poems and photographs are now collected in a lovely book called Sacredness Surrounds Us In Every Season for which I had the privilege of writing the Foreword.
Pat divides her book by season. During the retreat, she asked each of us to reflect on an intriguing question: What season do you feel you are in?
It wasn’t a question about the outdoors or the stage of life we are in chronologically — whether the autumn of our years or the springtime of our life. It was about how we are feeling interiorly.
My first thought drifted to winter. This has been a go-go year for me in which I gave dozens of retreats and other public presentations, participated in a 10-day scholar in residence program, and traveled twice to Italy — first, to guide a two-week pilgrimage in Abruzzo and then to lead a series of workshops in Rome. In recent days, I finally hit a wall of exhaustion. It’s made concentrating on my writing particularly hard and even forced me to take a few, rare afternoon naps. Was barren winter my interior season?
Then I began looking at Pat’s summer photographs. Flowers erupting into blasts of purple, yellow, pink, and red. Fulsome grass bursting forth from the soil. That’s it, I thought. Winter is not my interior season. It’s summer with its constant yearning for growth. I especially identified with Pat’s photographs that showed an edge of green grass growing between two pieces of concrete or an intrepid fern breaking through stone to face the sun.
One of Pat’s summer haiku prayers seemed to describe how I feel (well, most of the time):
Surrounded by green,
God’s gifting to creation …
How can I not grow?
Like those ferns cracking through rock or concrete, if we believe we can grow, we will.
Those of us who attended Pat’s retreat reflected on other questions as well. What does sacredness mean to us? What does wonder and awe mean?
We were challenged to look more closely, reflect more deeply, particularly on the everyday objects and sights that surround us. Deepening our attention, increasing our appreciation for the everyday, can serve as a balm as we try to cope with the many tragedies unfolding in so many parts of our world. It’s a practice Pat captures beautifully in one of her longer, inspirational poems in Sacredness Surrounds Us In Every Seasons:
Sometimes you just need to look
a little harder, deeper and longer
to see the light.
You know it’s there
you’ve embraced its faithful return
in the past.
Weariness might tempt you
Sadness may distract your hopeful heart.
Don’t let tears wash away
those signs of hope.
Brush away the clouds of doubt.
Be patient with all that is,
trust what is still possible!
Awaken your heart again.
Breathe in the breath of God
that sustains you!
you just need to look
a little harder, deeper, longer
to see the light.
it’s there inside you, still.
What is your interior season? How can you look more closely, more deeply at the world around you? What is filling you with awe?
Visit Pat on Facebook at My Haiku Prayers and Photos by Pat Leyko Connelly. Sacredness Surrounds Us In Every Season is available on amazon.com order it at your local bookstore.