The pandemic was hard. In California, we were in a lockdown. We were essentially constrained to home and short trips to necessary stores. The pandemic was hard on schools; as a headmaster, I was in the role of leading a school, teaching classes, and coordinating my own children’s Zooms and related distance learning. The pandemic was hard on individuals. I was in the role of leading a school as various parents and staff moved from questioning methodology to motives, from conduct to character.
One of the few reprieves was a morning walk. It was craved solitude. A time for centering and calming. Or so it should have been. But often a time of rumination. My younger daughter began asking to come with me. I was irritated but acquiesced. I found that often she would chatter, and I would distantly respond, or not. I would miss the life in her and all things.
Until we found the House of Snails. It was a wonder – a small plot in a raised bed in which we’d find a riot of snails. Tens, dozens. It became an every day liturgy to pause and count and wonder. And this one moment, this one connection, changed the tenor of the walks. Now there was communion – eager anticipation which centered our attention on the coming glory and expanded our presence to be fully alive together.
It was a one-year miracle. The next year, no such grace. But a reminder what graces are all about, invitations in themselves to a cloistered communion and through them to one expansive of all creation. The poem was a reflection on that grace.
Counting Snails Even a walk becomes a burden when taken in not love; the horizon a landmarked boundary, conquest not beauty. Silent or soft syllabled conversations imagined, given voice, cares related and ruminated, bushes brushed by. Until the House of Snails. There my daughter, ever moving every morning, to whom I have been neglectful negligent presence in her joyous communion, we pause to count ...10...12...20 how many today? Point excitedly at each new shelled discovery and question in wonder, “Daddy, why did God make them slow?” “For He delights in manifold wonder diverse.” Catched up, enraptured in revelation of wonders wandered past, yet stilled, rejoicing. The elder wide and grey, the younger translucent almost luminescent in morning’s sun. This a new liturgy of practiced presence and prayer’s patience. Remember the snail, O Martha, busy and bothered by many things but not the much that is the one thing needful. We labor and toil without harried hurry, reposed in movement, calm and of no unsought care, we receive Yahweh’s given wondrous whorls. We cannot as Mary contemplate the higher mysteries; yet as she with the Master content. So you so learn patience seeming plodding, given common grace.
Featured image by Hannah Sanders