Walking the Earth – Prayer Exercise

Tess Ward shares a prayer exercise for Walking the Earth:

Walking the Earth

This could not be more simple.  Set aside at least half an hour. Find a place of green to walk in.  Either a garden, a field, a wood, a park, a nature reserve, an allotment, a meadow, or if you’re not in Oxford, the sea or mountain. It does not matter if you know it well or have never been there before.  Walk slowly and at a certain point of your choosing, stop.  Look around you.  Pay close attention to all that you see.  Bend down to take a closer look or look up or wherever your eye leads you.  Take time.  Spend at least 5 minutes doing this.  Then walk on and do the same thing again and again until you have completed your walk.

The reason this works is because we don’t do it very often.  We can so easily be outside walking and our mind is full of things that have happened in the past or we are making plans for the future and we can find it hard to stay present and miss what is here now. When we do this outside and notice the wonder of God’s creation it’s not such hard work to feel that we belong to it and to trust the Maker of all, however we felt when we started our walk.

You don’t need any words for this exercise but if you would like some here are some taken from my book.  They are all copyright Tess Ward “The Celtic Wheel of the Year” O-Books 2007

At the beginning

Praise to you for walking in the garden of this lovely day.

The flowers have not yet faded though soon they might.

Some of the blackberries are fat, some tart and some just right.

The nights are falling slowly, and the mellow evening light is warm.

Praise to you in this sacrament of now.

Give me grace to hold this moment that you have given to me,

to cherish it before it passes with the autumn glow,

to gather the fruits that have fallen to the ground,

and to taste the sweetness of today.

 

At a tree/wood

Blessed be you Tree of Life,

with your roots reaching down into the damp earth,

your leaves yearning towards heaven’s light.

Praise to you for the wild sanctuary of the wood

and the brown bird choir in the branch-beamed roof.

Shelter me under your care

for you know my greening and renewal.

You know the changes that turn my leaves to flames

You know my little dyings as I must let fall.

You know every ring within the trunk of my life.

You know the spiral of my inner ways.

May I see your windfall grace as I walk in trust this day.

By a river

Blessed be you River of Life,

for you nourish and refresh with clear cold waters,

bringing healing and refreshment to all who come to you.

Even the sound of laughing brook and beck

in dappled light brings joy to troubled souls.

Let me drink of your life here in solitude and stillness,

here where trees grow strong and birds keep watch.

Take my meditation and carry it down to the sea,

where the depth and height and width of your love cannot be measured.

In Garden or Park

Radiant One,

more beauteous and eternal than the late summer sun,

brightening the berries cased in nature’s plastic;

hardening the shell of nut.

By your generous hand,

bramble and blackberry, scarlet rowan and elder berries,

hazelnuts, sweet-chestnuts,

shiny rose-hips, rich red haws and deep black sloes.

Seedheads on thistle and teasel feeding the winged ones above.

May your Spirit grow me from seed of love within

that I might bear kind fruit in all weathers this day.

At  field or allotment

Praise to you Life-giving One

turning the wheel of each season with your invisible care

for you know what is needful to bring forth the fruits.

Squashes, gourds and marrows sitting on the soil,

apples, damsons, greengages on the soft grass for picking.

And underfoot, cream and magenta root vegetables ready to pull,

hardy turnips, parsnips beetroot and swede.

On tree and bush, clusters of berries in scarlet and October orange,

and nuts cradled in silken case within hard clasp of shell,

feeding birds and squirrels in scarce times.

May I know your presence warming as the colder season calls

and my heart be earthed in your generosity.

On leaving

Strange God who made dying beautiful

I abandon myself to your curious beauty this day.

As winter comes to rest the land,

empty me as a bowl ready to receive,

ready to notice your love as it happens, not afterwards,

and to cherish your nourishing with gratitude

in fruit and in fallow

and to know how beautiful is this autumn day before it passes.

copyright Tess Ward “The Celtic Wheel of the Year” O-Books 2007

Tess Ward is a hospital chaplain and writer of prayers and liturgies. She facilitates both traditional Christian services and more personal, spiritually focussed ceremonies. Her books include “The Celtic Wheel of the Year” by O-Books 2007. For more information see www.tessward.co.uk.

What is so special about homemade?

Chris Sunderland from EarthAbbey reflects on the recent harvest festival celebrations he has been involved in.

Why did many people say it felt so good to celebrate in this way? Part of the attraction was that it was something we had done ourselves. It felt raw and approachable. There was no hype, or hard sell. There were no celebrities, no big egos. We were just human beings who had done something.

What is so special about homemade?

image

The recent Homemade Festival here in Bristol had a very special feel to it. I wondered why. We had asked people to come and contribute something they had made, or grown, or cooked, or music they could sing, or a game they could lead…

We had food from Poland, Bangladesh, a curry made from homegrown ingredients. We had musicians, all working unplugged, a group which sang unaccompanied, others who had written their own work. We sat around on straw bales, eating the food, which was served from our new outdoor kitchen, which had been built by the community using traditional woodworking skills and unmachined wood. Outside the young people were playing, making dens and walkways between trees in the park beside the road, while a whole selection of crafts were displayed with bright quilts, and other textiles, homemade carpets and cakes.

imageThe focus of the festival was our Walled Garden in Barton Hill in Bristol. Many people took the chance to see what had been going on there, like the remarkable pumpkin that had spread so far, even up the trees or the thirty types of tomato and the beginnings of the forest garden. The garden is still in its early stages really, but it is already a great place to be. Soon there will be a roundhouse, built as a reflective space, a cob oven for the new kitchen and a rainwater harvesting system.

We had organised the festival in partnership with many of the local organisations and the burden of responsibilities had been shared between different people. Many people said it felt good.
I guess part of the attraction was that it was something we had done ourselves. It felt raw and approachable. There was no hype, or hard sell. There were no celebrities, no big egos. We were just human beings who had done something.

Matthew Crawford in his book The Case for Working with your Hands points out how much of our world today is based around pretence of some form or another. We are all very insecure as we shout across the internet to each other, trying to attract attention to our latest idea. Yet he points out that the person who has actually made something need say nothing. They only need to point.

Chris Sunderland, EarthAbbey

This article originally appeared in the EarthAbbey blog and is reproduced with permission.

The wonder of creation in us

Creation Tide, which starts today on 1 September and runs for five weeks until 4 October, is a good opportunity for us to engage with creation in new ways. It’s good to engage with detail in creation. Contemplate, wonder, give thanks. It’s fascinating to watch a small child interact with a very small discovery in a garden path or a flower border. There’s enough miracle in that tiny patch of ground to keep a child entranced. Whatever happened to that quality of wonder in us? Here’s an example.

Annie Dillard is an American writer who is exquisitely aware of details. In her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she writes of encountering a butterfly:

‘It is easy to coax an exhausted butterfly onto your finger. I saw a monarch walking across a gas station lot; it was walking south. I placed my index finger in its path, and it clambered aboard and let me lift it to my face. Its wings were faded but unmarked by hazard; a veneer of velvet caught the light and hinted at the frailest depth of lapped scales. It was a male; his legs clutching my finger were short and atrophied; they clasped my finger with a spread fragility, a fineness as of some low note of emotion or pure strain of spirit, scarcely perceived. And I knew that those feet were actually tasting me, sipping with sensitive organs the vapour of my finger’s skin: butterflies taste with their feet. All the time he held me, he opened and closed his glorious wings, senselessly, as if sighing.’

The description of that encounter goes on for another full page. This was just an exhausted butterfly ‘walking south,’ but it evoked a depth of observation and attention that is enviable to those of us who would have wandered innocently by. When we engage with detail we’re taken into the profound value of every part of creation.

As we walk the dog or go to the local shops, can we try to walk more slowly (it’s hard). And as we walk, can we look, smell, touch, listen. A whole world of new sensory experiences opens up which is usually screened out by our distraction and haste. We need to be aware that this ability to attend to nature will easily fade unless encouraged. William Blake observed that, ‘The tree which moves some to tears of joy is, in the eyes of others, only a green thing which stands in the way.’ But faced with all this wonder, the next question for most of us has to be: ‘how then shall we live on this planet of miracles?’

Bishop of Oxford – the Rt Rev John Pritchard

For further resources around Creation Tide visit: www.earthingfaith.org/creation-tide

Photo Monarch (Butterfly) by Dave Govoni (Va bene!)