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The Nature Whisperer: Revealing the Light Within
Come journey with me. I made a quiet space for you. I have created gardens of thought, wherever they grow, fusing spirituality with science and mystery; from nature's own voice, that softly voice floats in on gentle breezes.
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The Nature Whisperer: Inspirational Messages Where Gardens Grow
by:  Dr. Gloria Hill
e-mail:  setpointhill@aol.com
web:  http://gloriasstories.com
Gardens of Thought to Enlighten and Lift the Soul
September 15, 2019

A Mystery to Be Lived

Life is Not a Problem to be Solved But a Mystery to be Lived (Thomas Merton)

The Unexpected

Do you see this opportunistic pink flower, peaking her way around the croton plant? She volunteered herself into this pot, with no help from me, the gardener. She just showed up, feisty and gutsy, showing off her colors after surviving a harsh winter. And she grabbed my attention, reminding me to expect the unexpected.

Unexpected Road

Some of the best years of my childhood were spent on the family farm in Southern New Jersey, not too far from the lush Pine Barrens, teeming with wildlife. Adjacent to the farm was, and still is, an obscure country lane, appropriated named, Unexpected Road. As a child I moseyed down the long stretch countless times, going as far as my parents would allow, to the edge of the thick woods, where sentries of trees guarded the stuff of my dreams. I believed hidden in the dark woods, where Unexpected Road turned and disappeared, were the answers to all my why-questions, and the mounting mysteries swimming in my young impressionable mind.

These days, when I visit The Farm, I never miss an opportunity to take another long pensive look down Unexpected Road, still unpaved and still inviting me to the edge of the woods, and to the far side of my thoughts. But Unexpected Road continues to protect its secrets. Ok, I think. Keep your riddles. Remain mysterious. I can almost hear its reply: isn’t that the point, the lure of the unknown?

Mysteries

American novelist Ken Kesey said the need for mystery is greater than the need for answers. Maybe that’s why Amazon’s best sellers are the whodunits. Readers want a good page turner, a tangled web of intrigue that, by the story’s end, is neatly unraveled.

But what about real life?

Among the vast expanse of the unknown, the mystery of self is the most penetrating, getting to the heart of human existential questions. In my ten years as a middle school teacher and administrator, the commonality I saw among these tweeners was that they wore their search for self clearly etched on their young faces. Unlike adults, masking our inner search, adolescents show the immediacy of who am I, who are you, and why do we matter?

The Search for Self

I am in my senior years. You might think the search for self-discovery diminishes with age, but each season of my life carries more unknowns. From my childhood years and on to adolescence, then young adult, marriage, parenting, middle age, and grandparenting, new unexpected roads appear, roads that curve into hidden shadows, tight fisted and unyielding. Old habits are not easily broken. I still look down those roads that offer little. So, I look upward.

I look to the skies. My musings about self are often stirred in cloudscapes, my own private Rorschach gallery of grey-white cottony shapes against a blue sky. Skyscapes reveal more of my inner self than my dresser mirror, which only reflects an external shell.

Along the Jersey Shore, cloudscapes blend into seascapes. Together they offer fathoms of introspective deep diving into the cross currents of my life: my attachments, detachments, conflicts, dreams, regrets, ambiguities, and longings for authenticity. Always searching. Always just below the surface. The true inner self must be drawn up like a jewel from the bottom of the sea, rescued from confusion, from indistinction, from immersion in the common, the nondescript, the trivial, the sordid, the evanescent. (Thomas Merton)

I Don’t Know How to do Life Without Grits

In her bestselling novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, protagonist Kya, living alone in the marshes of South Carolina and running out of basic food supplies sighs, “I don’t know how to do life without grits.” That about sums it up for me. I don’t know how to do life without mystery. Mystery, nature and search for self, fill out the corners of my God triangle. And when I am fully immersed in all three, I find another dimension, a spiritual dimension, not found in the everyday noise and miles covered. And with all of life’s stuff swirling around me, I can easily miss a current, that drifts onto shore on a seemingly random wave.

Merton continues: . . . my peace, my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.

Restlessness

Oceans almost always stir up restlessness in me. Watching the ebb and flow, like the push and pulls of life, I feel undone. The sea is motion and emotion. She continuously rolls in, carrying briny secrets, but oh, so cleverly, she pulls them right back, along with the gritty sand, down to the ocean floor where white pearls are formed. Standing at the water’s edge, with salty swirls foaming around my ankles, I cannot find the in-betweenness I seek. Above my head, seagulls flutter and they laugh at the futility.

In-Betweenness: A Space for Learning

So, where do seekers go for answers, where sea gulls aren’t so amused? I look for the in-between, in the quiet spaces, in the breaks between the notes, between the comings and goings, between sunrise and daybreak, in the slowing stillness of time. It is in-betweenness where poets and artists compose. I mistakenly thought in-betweenness was my made-up word, but I am heartened to see it already exists, already probed.
There is an art gallery in England featuring In-Betweenness to Capture a Sense of Self. Betweenness is even in the Miriam-Webster Dictionary.

One of my favorite writers is Parker J. Palmer who wrote several books on education, adding a spiritual element to the personal exchange between learner and teacher. In his book, To Know as We Are Known, Palmer contends the purpose of education is to create a space for learning, providing a healthy creative tension between our limits and our potentials. More in-betweenness. I hunt for my spaces where learning lurks.

Where is your space for learning? Your space for mystery? Think about the important discoveries you have found in your own God triangle, in your search for self.

The Nature Whisperer

I began this blog, this spiritual journey to create a space for learning, and in the process, I discovered new dimensions of myself, new insights drawn out like jewels from the bottom of the sea. Thank you for taking this journey with me. In my opening page of my blog, there is this invitation that is continually open. I believe the sea opens more spaces for learning. Hmmm. What is she whispering?

Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. (Thomas Merton)

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August 29, 2019

Following the Sun and Other Journeys

It’s a soggy, warm June morning. During the night, a pelting rainstorm ran over us like a speeding train, leaving our yard fully drenched. This morning, remnants of the storm are clearly visible. New blades of grass have brazenly spiked through tiny slits in the sidewalk. Morning Glories, looking like fluted stemware are glistening with rainwater. Reaching their tipping point, they are ready to spill out their heavy loads. And I see Mother Nature’s sparkling jewels--droplets of water bubbled on velvety blue green leaves, looking like liquid diamonds. Her necklaces of life are grandly displayed. Dawn’s breath is fresh and clean.

That prior evening, we ventured outside to grab the last bit of blue sky before the inevitable storm. Unexpected guests soon arrived. A gaggle of Canada Geese sauntered by, perhaps to enjoy a brisk walk before the rain. Continuing a casual yet steady pace, they shuffled single file, the gander’s attentive eyes on us. A few minutes later, they returned in the other direction and then, to our surprise, back again for another curtain call. I read that they walk to find new food sources, but I like to think these return trips acknowledge us as friendly neighbors. After all, we share this space and time, and perhaps in their minds, coexistence is tolerable. We also share something else. Migration.

Some refer to us as snowbirds. In January as the earth’s rotation around the sun brings ice and snow to the northern hemisphere, we fly to our southern home in Florida. Come spring, we return. Likewise, Canada Geese also make these round-trip flights. Weather permitting, they can fly 1500 miles in one day**. I imagine their flight path paralleling our own from the pinelands of Southern New Jersey to Central Florida, and back again. Interestingly, thousands of species of animals migrate throughout their lives. Migrations can be search for food, water or the instinct to follow the sun. Life on this planet is a quest for nourishing water and light.
Here, in my home near the New Jersey shore, I see water and light playing their dual roles. I am inspecting my soggy garden on this wet June morning. Already a bright sun is yellowing up the sky. We are nearing the summer solstice, the season of the sun. I begin my early morning garden inspection.

My summer garden routine is task oriented. My potters’ bench is armed with hand rakes, trowels, watering cans, shovels, various fertilizers and bags of potting soil; all designed to protect the rhythms of plant life. A barrel full of questions become right-now issues. Are the pots draining properly? Will the extra moisture invite infestations? Is the soil nutrient-rich? Overcrowding? Too much sun or too little?
The amount of sunlight is critical both for sun-loving plants as well as the shade seekers. I walk outside multiple times of the day, looking for changes in sun patterns, which can change from year to year. Not having yet reached their full growth, my trees branch out, casting new shadows. My summer perennials respond by leaning toward the sun, migrating in inches, not miles.

I think more about migration. Having lived in four different states, I must have regained some of our ancestral nomadic habits. Had I more decades in front of me, I would consider a year’s extended residence in another country. I like journeying. Yet I am aware that not all journeys can be measured in inches or miles. The most critical journeys for me, migrations of thought, have been the most transformational.
My spiritual journey is perennial. As with the Canada geese walking back and forth, I sometimes return places I’ve been to revisit lessons learned. How grateful I am for a patient guiding light that steadily emits a path forward, with glowing embers pulling me through the lurking shadows.

My soul is not nomadic. It has a home, but I didn’t always know that. As Thomas Merton so wisely said, “God is right with us and in us and out of us and all through us, but we have to go on journeys to find him.”
I don’t mind. I will take that journey again and again.

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A R C H I V E / H I G H L I G H T S

Finding Your Bedrock
originally posted: August 29, 2019

It was an unusually warm spring day in our home in suburban Denver, Colorado. Beads of sweat were streaming down my back. I was digging a hole deep enough to plant an Aspen sapling that was on the ground, resting on its side. Thinking I was very close to the needed three-foot depth, I jabbed the spade deep into the ground and hit something hard. The grinding sound of steel against granite was all too familiar. I had previously unearthed large clumps of red clay, stubborn, fist-sized rocks and tangled up fibrous taproots, but this one boulder did not want to give up its hold. Trying to determine the outermost edges, I inserted the point of the spade in all directions and was thwarted each time. I seemed to have exposed a motherlode of bedrock. Feeling a bit discouraged, I speared the spade into a softer spot in the ground, went inside, poured a large glass of lemonade and slumped deep into a soft cushiony armchair to consider my course of action.

I sank back into the chair and recalled another time, a time when I sought bedrock of a different kind. I was a few months shy of my thirtieth birthday, a major milestone for anyone pondering the loss of youth. And I was also musing other existential questions, as steep as the 14,000-foot rocky peaks.

Well over a hundred years earlier, it was gold fever that brought thousands to Colorado. For me, it was a yearning to stretch as tall as the mountains that silhouetted my western skyline. It was a time of introspection for me. A full 2,000 miles from my east coast roots, I contemplated how much my life was determined by geography. Had I been born in another century, or another continent, I would have other views, a different faith, sculpted by parents from another culture. So, here in my adopted mile-high city, I sought to climb the summit of my own beliefs by wiping the slate clean: a sort of religious do-over, beginning at my spiritual sea level.

I moved into an area of agnosticism. Not stagnant agnosticism, but as a restless sojourner. My search brought me to an assortment of houses of worship. And, on one Palm Sunday morning, I attended a lecture given by a man whose name I do not recall. His thesis was the comparison of the Christ story to fairytales and various mythologies. His intellectual delivery was compelling, and I walked to the parking lot feeling very informed. But as I started my car’s engine, I heard another sound. It was a resonate voice rising from a space deep inside me. Each word was its own chord, reverberating, my own body as the musical instrument.

From my inner core, it rang, “I lived. I died. I am.”
These simple, yet powerful, words held so much force that I slumped back in my seat. The motor was still running, but I was not going anywhere. Rivers of hot tears ran down the sides of my face, the salty liquid forming warm little pools in my ears. I felt a tsunami of love wave over me. It was time to stop digging. I found my bedrock.

Until this writing, I never told anyone about that pivotal experience in my spiritual journey. I did resume my introspective climb, but this time with firm footing. Thirty years later, I am still on a spiritual journey, but with an unshakable foundation.

Seeking bedrock doesn’t have to be an existential quest. As the director of a department, I headed a staff of about 20 people. The university was restructuring, and my staff was to be divided up and reassigned to different departments. Rumors ran amok. My staff was visibly shaken by the thought of being split apart and relocated across campus. On our last meeting together, I did not have the words to heal their angsts, but I did offer this advice, “Find your bedrock.”

What are your unshakable beliefs? I reminded my staff of how they were valued by all who worked with them. They were kind, responsible and dedicated members of the university. When it feels that we have lost solid earth beneath our feet, in times of grief, in times of fear, when unsure about tomorrow, the gospel of Matthew has some solid words, words that are worth the climb, words on which we can cling.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7: 24)

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Finding Your Spiritual Center
originally posted: August 29, 2019

Nature centers me. This morning, an early morning mist has varnished my garden with a moist glaze. Droplets of water puddle in the open palms of leaves. Soon they will disappear, returning to distant clouds. The lush growth emits cool, fresh oxygen to the air. I inhale its sweetness and it fills and expands my awakening body. I return the favor exhaling CO2. My garden and I sustain each other in this symbiotic exchange. I fall into the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation; my spirit rides on each breath.

Tulips and daffodils, now fully awake, are stretching to meet the rising sun as it warms the air. As if to acknowledge my presence, they dip and sway. I nod back. I see a few buds ready to open, their once tightly wrapped covers now relaxing their grip, offering me just a sliver of yellow. Spring mornings awaken my spirit and allow it to heighten. Earthly fears or worries retreat. My mind unclutters.
Any illusion of separation from creation is dissolved. There is unity. My communion with God is as close as my own breath. I have traded realities: my human condition for my soaring soul. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher and Jesuit priest wrote, “"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience."

My spirit thrives in these quiet settings. New energies pour into every cell. Streams of consciousness run through me like rivers of white light. I am recreated anew. Calm assuredness washes over me, and I am fully present in “Thy will be done”.
I need this time to tamp down my overworked, often interfering ego. My days are not devoid of prayer, but often daily prayers are one-way transmittals. The phrase “sending prayers” captures the one-sided nature of our earth-based prayers. Mine can take on the tone of meeting agendas, a Godly list of “to-dos”. Even when I remember to tack on the all-encompassing disclaimer, “if it’s your holy will,” I am not sure if I really mean it. My petitions can take on the energy of “my will be done”.

If I am not a Type-A personality, I must be a runner up. I can be obsessed, even driven. I plan. I strategize. I allow fear to sneak into my thoughts. I sweat things out. I imagine a kindly, bearded, grandfatherly God indulging my frenetic pace, chiding, “Gloria, my child, why do you push so hard?”

Here is my garden, under a tree, each breath reclaims my spiritual center. My soul is ignited by the smallest of things. A dewdrop. A fragrant gardenia. A step. A breath. They open an immense flood of awareness. Revelation.

Consider the possibilities if we can embrace de Chardin’s proclamation: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.

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A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R

Hello. I am Gloria, the author of The Nature Whisperer. Nature has been my faithful muse throughout my life, as a young girl, a wife and mother, a teacher, a professor, and a grandmother. I find guiding light in nature with help from enlightened souls.
In one of my posts, Following the Sun and Other Journeys, I refer to my nomadic life. I have lived and loved in four different states: Colorado, California, Florida and my home state of New Jersey, with one foot in farm country and the other at the Jersey Shore.