This morning, I found painted on the underbelly of a rock the words, You are beautiful. I set it on the ledge of the window that looks out over the Shenandoah River.
“How’s the body?” Todd asks as I’m clearing a plate from the breakfast table. He’s doing the dishes, and for the little boy who always threw the canned cooked spinach with the yellow ring around it into the broken dishwasher that was never used, he has come a long way. He ate the “green stuff” I put in our omelet. “It’s good,” he said. And I hadn’t even asked.
“Good,” I answer his question about my body just as he did about the eggs. It may not be the best it could be, but we are both learning to accept what we can’t change. He accepts that I will always cook with lots of vegetables, I accept my condition for what it is. “It is what it is,” I say.
I have realized if I disassociate myself from the disease, I disassociate from myself, and I want to be fully in this life, in my life, in myself. “Thanks for letting me just be yesterday,” I say admitting I didn’t feel so good. “Could you tell?”
“Sure I could tell, but what else would I do?”
“You could say, ‘You don’t look so good?, or ‘What’s the matter with you?’ or anything that might make me feel worse. But you didn’t. Thanks.”
Then I surprise even myself and say, “Come on, let’s go kayaking!” I have never kayaked. I’m scared of tipping. I’m not good with paddles. My friend and I were rescued once on a canoe trip at summer camp. We laughed a lot but had to be pulled behind a sherif to catch up with our group.
For the first time, I slid backwards, according to Todd’s instructions, into the kayak and paddled up river until I couldn’t hear Fannie crying or Todd’s voice yelling something I couldn’t understand. I paddled until I intruded on the Great White Egret Todd had seen earlier and said looked like a Concord Jet in flight.
I didn’t want to disturb the majestic bird perched like royalty on a rock so I let the current lull me and just sat there, being still. In the wind came the lesson that I had been seeking. I had found the place where doing and being become one. But the Egret already knew this.
The art of the Kayak is that it reveals the truth in these words I read this morning:
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
We move on at some point in life, determined, as we grow in grace and strength and beauty—the true beauty of holiness—ever learning the depth and heights of what it means to be still and know God, to uproot the dry craggily roots of our self-filled efforts to be transplanted in rich Kingdom soil that God Himself has cultivated and prepared for us to bud and flourish.
As an animal in these Shenandoah woods can change its form to allow it to move nearer to the food it needs to survive, so too we are changed as we hunger after the Artist of true Beauty. Our entire nature is transformed, where doing becomes an extension of being.
What we do flows from who we are as naturally as the river knows when to be still and when to move. Christ’s tears are sometimes hidden from our hearts, yet the river of life within us, His Life, ever flowing through us, allows us to be changed in order to receive the wonders of what the Artist’s hands hold for us this day. Abundance. Beauty. Life.
Wherever true beauty is, there God is. The Good Book says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” It doesn’t say, do something and know that I am God. It has taken me a lifetime to learn what the Egret knew instinctively.
Later, I take a glass of water to the deck where our dog, Fannie, sits for hours just watching. I’ve never seen her so still.
Isaiah 55:10-12, Psalm 46:10