Last week we celebrated the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. This day is also referred to as midsummer’s day. Ancient peoples believed this was the time of the year when the veil that separates the various forms of the natural world is the thinnest, making communication between them the easiest.
This is the time of year when Ms. Dandelion can dialogue with Mr. Goose, when Senor Oak Tree can chat with Mr. Worm, and when human beings can converse effortlessly with the stars. When I’m facilitating retreats during this time of year, I encourage the retreatants to dialogue with some aspect of creation. I tell them, “Remember, St. Augustine called creation a sacrament. The natural world has much wisdom to share with us.” I tell them to go sit quietly somewhere and respectfully ask the object to share its wisdom with you. Then listen carefully. I give them a few examples from my own dialogues with creation. I once learned these wise things from a herd of cows: “Never wander too far from the herd…Keep your fanny to the wind…Ruminate, ruminate, ruminate.” From a 100-year-old willow tree I learned this: “Every gnarl is a blessing…Stay close to your water supply…Broken branches are a matter of course. Don’t fret their loss…Bend, bend, bend.”
A retreatant in Schuyler, Nebraska dialogued with the prairie wind. Another retreatant in Cape May, New Jersey didn’t dialogue with the ocean—as she had planned to do when she went outside. Instead she ended up talking with a telephone pole. An 83-year-old retreatant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania couldn’t get outside, so she dialogued with the pin oak outside her bedroom window.
At first you might feel awkward as you approach a robin, a daisy, or a butterfly and ask it to share its wisdom with you. But if you sit still for a few minutes, you might be surprised at what you “hear.” And don’t limit your conversations to living things either. You can also garner wisdom from a park bench, a fire hydrant, your bedroom slippers, your refrigerator, or the sun. The possibilities are endless.
When we dialogue with the natural world, we receive several other benefits. We slow down. We increase our attentiveness to the world around us. And we grow in our appreciation for everything that exists. Happy dialoguing!