Early last week after several days of off and on again rain the fields on either side of Teague Road became small ponds. Fields that have lain fallow during the late winter just waiting for spring and whatever the farmer wants to scatter on them to hopefully flourish as the weather warms fields to that possibility.
On those couple of days as I was coming and going to my little river home, the fields sprung to life in an amazing showing. The land sprouted feathery white with the gathering of seabirds, flocking, fluttering, chattering with one another in the sunlight that had taken over from the rain. A sight that caused me to slow down, linger longer to pick up my mail from my mailbox among the little row of them at the intersection of fields where Teague Road becomes Riverview. Hundreds of birds, their bodies catching, absorbing then reflecting the sunlight. It was a dazzling sight. I wondered what had drawn them there – no seed yet scattered on the fields, nor remnants of a harvest to nourish them. But there was a joy, an exuberance reflected from their flocking together as bright and brilliant as the sunlight they reflected. I could not take my eyes off the mesmerizing sight of them all together.
That week, mid-week I headed to Boone, N. C. where I was scheduled for my second COVID shot plus a couple of days family visit just in case of a post vaccination reaction. A special bonus on family visits there is time spent with grand-dog Wally, a very extroverted Basset hound who, I believe, is convinced that he is simply a four-footed human member of his family. Wally is a canine version of what in college days we used to call a “party animal.” While his favorite indoor pastime may be characterized as “couch potato” he is most energized by his time spent at the big living room window that fronts the road in front of his house, a road narrow in width that winds around a neighborhood on the lower side of a mountain overlooking Boone. This is Wally’s window on the world and all that is passing by. It’s a narrow paved mountain road that someone in a flight of fancy decades ago named Grand Boulevard. The area’s bigger name, Grandview, is more appropriate. Wally has friends in the neighborhood and a favorite gathering place is Wally's big, really big fenced in backyard, on the sloping hillside behind his house. It’s a great gathering space for Wally and his friends, Cisco and Rufus, his Grandview four footed neighbors. Wally, Cisco and Rufus – a threesome that the Grandview humans who live in that area have dubbed “the Boulevard Boys.”
One late afternoon the Boulevard Boys gathered for a play date in Wally’s yard. As we their humans gathered socially distanced and masked on the large deck overlooking Wally’s hillside backyard, I was surprised at the quiet that fell over our little group. How we all dropped into some mesmerized zone, conversation silenced as we watched the exuberant group below interacting, just being together with such freedom and joy. And we humans hanging over the deck railing high above them, watching. Yes, watching with delight, but also a deep longing.
We humans, like many other living things, are a people of the gathering. While there are times we need and benefit from solitude, we are wired for togetherness. And when we don’t have that togetherness that appears to be woven into the design of how we are to live optimally and wholistically, there is a longing that stirs within us – to connect with other living things and with each other.
This year of pandemic, of forcing a long, long time of sequestering ourselves, of mandating a “sheltering in place” for the good of the whole has highlighted just how important relationship is to mind and body, soul and spirit. How relationship feeds, nourishes, nurtures mind and body, soul and spirit. When we are blocked, exiled from relationship over a period of time, we hunger for it, hunger for just gathering together again. Seeing the flock of birds on the fields as I headed home, watching Wally and his friends with no social distancing or masked mandates interrupting their togetherness touched a longing. That is why both visons captured my heart and spirit so deeply.
Thanks be to God for spring, and for the COVID vaccine. May both overtake and overcome a long wintertime and a deeply invasive virus that forced our hibernation from the world as we have known it and from each other. Springtime calls us forth in any year to re-emerge in life, as surely as flowers break through the crust of the earth and tiny leaves, called forth by a warming sun, burst out from what seems dead wood. A calling that is universal, essential and reaches into the deep roots of who we are, but especially so this year. We will regather. It is going to happen. May we rejoice and be glad in this spring time of renewed life.
By God’s Amazing Grace, Spring is coming; we will gather again. Gathering as the earth comes forth to meet the sun and we bask in its warmth and the light of each other's spirit