Today was also my first opportunity to 'walk on country' since coming home to Australia.
After some indecision about where to go, I finally decided to walk from home onto Bruce and O'Connor Ridges. These bits of remnant bush are sandwiched between Gungahlin Drive and Belconnen Way, and the traffic noise is more or less constant. Even so, there's a whole different world from the surrounding suburbs being inhabited here. It's also a world very different from the European country we've been walking recently. The bush is straggly and unkempt looking, yet beautiful in its own way. It was a joy to be in it again - absorbing its smells, the look of the vegetation, the movement of ants on the hard ground.
The birds are far more abundant and far noisier than any we encountered in the forests of France. These kookaburras were laughing uproariously - maybe it was a competition?
I was feeling a bit of agitation as I walked into this time of retreat. Since returning home, the sense of the spaciousness and well-being of pilgrimage has lingered with me. Even though life has been full, it hasn't been overwhelming, and I've experienced our re-entry into 'normal' routine as relatively easy and gentle. But yesterday, I went to visit my spiritual director and spoke about invitations I've received to do things next year - talks to give, retreats to lead and so on. All of a sudden, things seemed to start pressing in. The question of what to accept and what not to and how busy I am likely to be became real - I felt anxious and unsure how to discern my responses. A familiar fear of being overwhelmed began to rise up.
I have experienced such plenitude, I want to live plenteously. I don't want to decline invitations out of miserliness or the fear of not having enough (time, energy, things to contribute). On the other hand, nor do I want to live dissipated and stretched - unable properly to prepare for or take delight in what I do because of being spread too thin.
Neil asked - 'what are your priorities?' This morning, the white-barked scribbly gums asked the same question. As I contemplated their clarity, the way they provide structure and definition for the surrounding bush, they asked me: what are the bones of the coming year?
Vocationally in this next year, I know there are two things that are necessary. One is Benedictus, and nurturing the next phase of our life in community. The second is to explore what is called for and being called forth by this land, Australia. The particularity of place, country, has not in the past seemed so important to me ... but this feels like an area of growing awareness and significance, and one that I must explore. I sense there's a gift here for the contemplative movement as a whole, and not just for those of us in Australia.
Starting here, the question becomes: 'what must I do?' And in the light of that, what can be let go?
That still doesn't make everything immediately clear ... but I feel restored to equilibrium and to a spirit of trusting the unfolding of things. And whenever I'm tempted to think I don't have time for a morning's retreat, an experience like today teaches me that I don't have time not to!