by Christine Sine
Tom and I have just returned from a very wet neighbourhood walk – such a contrast from a week ago when the dry smoke-filled air carried toxic chemicals and was hazardous to breathe. It is so good to breathe fresh air again and be able to enjoy our beautiful neighbourhood walks. I have found myself gasping in awe at the patterns of raindrops on flowers, leaves and even spiderwebs. The rain has invigorated me, and, not surprisingly, had me searching for my post on rain walking from last year where I talked about how good rain is for us in body, mind and spirit.
This year, however, my daily rain walks have made me hyper aware of those who still cannot breathe. Here in Seattle, the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington State left us with toxic air for over a week. In other places, it continues and may do so for weeks if not months. Then there are those who never have the opportunity to breathe clean air because they live and work in polluted environments – farm workers who use toxic pesticides, poor communities around the world that are built near industrial complexes that spew forth environmental pollutants of all kinds. Many of these people provide the rest of us with consumer products we don’t really need.
From there, my thoughts shifted to other things that restrict our ability to breathe. That is the theme for this year I realize. – I CAN’T BREATHE – because of virulent diseases that congest our lungs, because of injustice that throttle our throats and because of pollution that clogs our air. Some of us can’t breathe because of the tears that constrict our throats as we ache for those who are live without the privileges we enjoy. As I thought about this the following prayer came to me:
and gave us life,
Give us breath once more.
May all your creation be able to breathe,
Without virus to congest our lungs,
Without injustice to throttle our throats,
Without pollution to clog our air.
Restore our breath, O God.
Replace exhaustion with joy and enthusiasm.
Renew our spirits.
May we all work to enable all persons and all creatures
to breathe freely,
Of the One who gifts us with the breath of life.
I find the rain is teaching me a lot of lessons this week. As it washes away the toxins in the air and turns my despondency into joy, I also notice that it is turning my exhaustion into renewed energy and enthusiasm. I wonder what “rain” do we need to turn our exhaustion at more COVID deaths, more reports of injustice and the constant knowledge of environmental pollution into joy and enthusiasm? Perhaps it is a time of retreat away from the news and our usual daily routines. This is a popular theme of mine. Retreats are powerful tools and as Tom and I get ready for our own retreat, I encourage you to do the same.
This year, we are taking an “at home retreat” and like us, you may not be able to go away but that does not stop you from taking time for retreat. Plan a time to turn off your phone, your social media, your internet access. Quieten the house as much as possible. As I suggest in my previous post on retreats, do some scripture reading and reflection, do some journalling, and intersperse these times with walks or creative exercises that stir the right side of your brain.
This is not a time to give up or give in to exhaustion. This is a time to “walk in the rain” as it were, wash away the toxins that are restricting our breathing and refresh ourselves in order to engage the challenges that will continue to confront us.