One of my favorite birds is the Wood Thrush. Not much to look at and easily confused at a glance with other brown birds, but boy oh boy can this one sing!! Here is a tiny clip. There are times I think it sounds like corillion bells.
Recently after the torrential spring rains, we saw one rolling on the sidewalk a bit aways from our front porch. My husband asked, “What in the world is that bird doing?” I looked and said, “Likely he is rolling in dust to clean his feathers. With all the rain it is probably hard to find dust in the woods!” Thrush must have sensed us watching him because he soon took off for the woods. In fact, we rarely see this fellow. Secretive, but a lovely minstrel!
Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.
American Naturalist Henry David Thoreau writing about the Wood Thrush
Often in the brutal heat of this summer weather on my way to the garbage can or getting out of the car I will hear this bird and then I SO agree with Thoreau. It has been way too hot and too many allergy triggers out there to have the windows open. Maybe it will cool off soon so I can hear it from inside, too!
Discussing meditation and contemplative prayer and all these other terms can sometimes distract us from actually doing the practice. Mark Buchanan is a wonderful author who often expresses things in a way I had not previously thought about. His book The Holy Wild mentions this:
“Our creativity, at least in part, comes from resting in His creativity until it seeps in. It springs from prayer. Not the busy chatty prayer we often do, but the other kind: prayer as emptiness, prayer as silence, prayer as stillness. Prayer as the absence of wanting and asking. Not the clamoring man waking his neighbor, desperate for bread (LK 11:5), but the suckled child curled up, satisfied in the mother’s arms (PS 131:2).
“Sometimes I just sit there. I don’t speak or ask or think. I watch, devoid of analysis. I just sit and look.
“I let things be, and I simply dwell in their presence. Where there is music or poetry or artistry in these things, I receive it without comment or lament, without the impulse to possess it or explain it. There is nothing mystical about this. This is not a slipping toward pantheism, where every rock bluff or grass tuft brims with divinity. This is simply an act of reverence for the God who makes things, and respect for all that He makes.
“God’s creativity is, in one sense, the most obvious thing about Him. He saves His most intricate work for the insides and undersides of things. (Molly’s favorite part of the ocean is the underside of waves!)
Richard Rohr has also at times taken as his guide in prayer a simple phrase: “Don’t think. Just look.” He wrote in Near Occasions of Grace “Father McNamara’s definition of contemplation became transformative: “A loving look at the real.” The world, my own issues and hurts, all goals and desires gradually dissolved into proper perspective. God became obvious and everywhere.”
He says “To Practice This Today: Take a loving look at the real. Use the phrase “Don’t think. Just look.” as a reminder throughout the day.”
Often I think of the view out the window nearest to my prayer chair as a cathedral. Not one built of stone and wood, but the most important place of worship. The biggest sanctuary in the area! I dare you to try these methods of prayer, if not for an entire day, then start with 15 minutes. “Don’t think. Just look.” Just sit and look, especially if you can be out of doors. “Rest in God’s creativity. Prayer as emptiness, silence, stillness.” You will never know the benefits until you try this repeatedly. Devote 15 minutes to this practice for one week. And be blessed by a renewed awareness of God’s Presence, within and without.
About jumped out of my skin just now.
While I am typing I have my phone timer set on the silly duck sound, Kay’s favorite on her phone. I keep setting the timer for changing the outdoor hose. My plants are suffering from our near drought conditions. Writing the blog I was deep into trying to explain the practice above and the benefits of meditation and contemplative prayer. I am home alone. That phone quacked and I nearly jumped out of my skin! My Prayer Core-Group friends are never far from my mind! TURN UP YOUR VOLUME TO EMULATE MY EXPERIENCE!
So, just a reminder, to try this practice but also stay aware of the things around you so you might not be as startled as I was just now!
We had over 4 inches of rain in 24 hours here. Today we are approaching 1-1/2 inch and it is only 10:10AM! No matter how much Ohioans complain about our weather, my heart goes out to those in the midwest whose homes and farms have been underwater for months. I cannot imagine the destruction. Pray for them! Makes it hard to write about Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, but here I go.
We spent one more night in Las Vegas and took off the next morning for Hoover Dam which neither of us had ever seen. Of course, you may remember the point of this trip was to go to places we had missed in our previous travels among the 49 States. (#50 will be for our 50th wedding anniversary!)
Another gorgeous cloudless day in Nevada as we entered the Hoover Dam area. We were told we might not be allowed to drive across, yet that particular day we could walk across and the drive across the road that tops the dam.
The lean on the towers fascinated me. As did the sparkling sun on the water. Look for the color line along the cliff that shows how high the water has been in the past. Wish we could drain the Midwest and send it to Hoover Dam!!
I liked this plaque!
So had to wonder the depth along the shore! According to http://mead.uslakes.info/level.asp The water level on June 18, 2019 was 1,085.46 feet. The level is 143.45 feet below full pool of 1,229.00. I love looking in water depths!
This is the view you are likely familiar with. Yep, it made me a bit dizzy!
And finally the huge angels. You can likely see better photos on bing images, but these are mine.
This is the flower we found in Death Valley. It is so much better than the first one I posted. Especially poignant this morning as my body spent most of the night in an arthritis fit that would not let me sleep until the wee hours of the morning. It rained almost four inches overnight. Likely the weather effected me as well.
But there you have it. Acceptance with joy even when it is impossible to sleep.
On the way, near Nellis Air Force Base, we saw the largest drone we had ever witnessed with our own eyes. Quite intimidating! Nothing the guys below ever experienced for certain!
Yes that tv show is where my thoughts about Death Valley were formed! How about yours? We were privileged to get to see the Valley with our own eyes. Granted it was a somewhat windy day, (never good in a sandy environment) but we were amazed at the contrasts. I was hoping to see the lake someone had told me formed recently from the torrential rains they had experienced. But it was all evaporated by the time we visited there.
We entered at Route 374 near Beatty, Nevada about 3307 ft elevation. The park is over 3,336,000 acres. We saw a tiny portion. Daylight pass was 4316 ft elevation. The basin of Death Valley lies at it’s deepest point 282 ft BELOW sea level. We went to -190 ft that day.
Sand, desolate environment. I cannot imagine being relocated to this area by the military from the Midwest or one of the coastal areas!
In one of my favorite stories, Hinds Feet on High Places, Much Afraid meets little flower called Acceptance-with-Joy.We thought we met that flower years ago when we first visited the Grand Canyon. She seemed to be here, too!
An amazing place to see. So glad I do not have to live there or cross it in a covered wagon!
Las Vegas. Oy. I do not have much good to say about the downtown gambling areas. We went during the week for cheaper room rates. Used it as our base location to visit both the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest area and Death Valley.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel in “Old Vegas.” Bob took his quarters hoping to use them up with the slot machines. Disappointed that the machines all take paper money now and issue a paper voucher for your winnings. No rattling coins when there was a winner, but plenty of lights and noise! We were easy walking distance to the Fremont Avenue canopy that formed a pedestrian-only gambling mall. At night we saw zip line riders overhead, so many flashing neon lights coordinated with music for six minutes on the hour. Too many weird people. Women in scanty clothes and men too aroused for public display (in my opinion). We were amazed that tourists were there with their children. I never would have exposed my daugher to such behavior as a child or even as a teenager! Yes, I am old and fond of my values.
The “Strip” with the mega-hotels was also not to our liking. Bob was driving and the traffic was awful. Then a truck with a huge advertisement made with led lights pulled in front of us. It literally hurt our eyes. The sidewalks were crammed as bad or worse as the Avenues in New York. People shoulder to shoulder with shopping bags and jaws agape. We did not go into any of the huge hotels as parking was at a premium and we decided we were just not THAT interested.
The drive to the west of Las Vegas was so interesting. We were looking for Red Rock Canyon and did not manage to find it. But we found the scenic road into the National Forest and Charleston Peak Ski area. The cactus were blooming and very fragrant.
We noticed the cactus stopped growing at about 7000 feet in elevation, at least in this area. We drove to an elevation of 8,437 feet.
There seem to be increased readers on weekends, so likely I will begin planning my posts for the weekend, or Thursday through Monday or who knows where my mind goes? Oh, the lyrics were actually “Who knows where the time goes?”
Looking back through my collected vacation literature I was delighted to see the National Park Service called Bryce Canyon “Poetry in Stone.” No, I did not write poetry about it, just tried to capture the grandeur in photos!
From Bryce we did make it that night to our motel in Cedar City. I want to back track to Capitol Reef, where we so enjoyed the scenic drive through the many geological features. One thing I did not emphasis was the black rocks.
The Park Service describes these as coming from 20 to 25 million year old lava flows. “Pieces of lava rock were transported many miles from their source, and were smoothed and rounded by their violent journeys within gritty floodwaters. When floods receded, black boulders were left scattered across the floodplains. The black boulders are black on the inside too! The white coating on the surface of many of the boulders is a mineral crust known as caliche, which is mainly a thin film of calcite and gypsum crystals. Caliche forms when mineral-laden groundwater seeps upward, coats the underside of the boulders, and evaporates from the surface, leaving its dissolved minerals behind.” I found the white frosting on the rocks as interesting as the rocks themselves.
I just find this stuff so interesting! Reading National Park literature I can learn a bunch without having to study geology to discover the facts. Nice they teach me as they publish!
I kept thinking of my baseball friend, Levi, and wanting to pick up the baseball sized black rocks. But alas, I am too honest, and could not do it. Besides the Park Service asked us to “not disturb or collect rocks or other park resources.”
I did pick up a smaller black rock along the side of the road after we left the park. Alas, neither one of us took a photo of the large black boulders 😦 So you will have to imagine!