On Sunday morning I started my day by randomly opening up and reading a passage from the The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.
Honesty is the net
by which we fish the deep.
"Though we are taught to make plans and keep to them, and though we work our way through predesigned courses of study to receive credentials and degrees, our attemps at real living don't happen this way.
For me, finding where I fit in the world feels a lot like spiritual fishing. The vast, mysterious ocean of experience keeps calling, and whether it is by buckets of questions or nets of honesty, I keep hauling up food from the days. I keep hauling in shells and pearls and seaweed from a common depth that no one can see, and then I spend time cleaning what I've found and hearing what it has to say.
In this way, everyone alive must fish, and this requires stillness and patience and a willingness to drift...Paradoxically, our essential feelings and personal truths live below like fish, not wanting to be caught. But spiritual fishing yields spiritual food, and the secret nourishment eating what lives within us is that to eat what lives in our shell we must open that shell, and eating what swims below our surface lets us see with the perspective of the deep.
...In committing to this honest practice, wisdom becomes that very good net of mindful heart, through which we rinse and claim the smallest of shells, those hidden casings that hold both food and pearls.
- Find a stretch of running water, and walk along its bank till you are called by it.
- Then reach into its moving clearness as if it were your own soul, and fish with your open hand for what it wants to give you.
- Whether it is a stone or branch or shell or piece of refuse, bring it up and hold it fully in your hand.
- Now meditate and work with this living symbol. Listen for what it knows and how it knows.
- What nourishment is it offering you?
For the full text and more inspiring reflections and exercises, I highly recommend that you pick up the book, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. This passage is found on pages 205-206.
I knew what I wanted to do that day: find a stretch of running water.
When my husband woke up, I read to him this passage and told him, "I want to find a stretch of running water. Let's have an adventure day."
The weather was forecasted to be rainy in the afternoon and the morning was already wearing on. I didn't care if it was perfect bluebird skies or rainy. I was interested in spiritual fishing. We quickly packed some food and our cameras and headed to a place I'd only heard about, Sculptured Rock.
Sculptured Rocks Natural Area, which spans 272 acres, is a unique example of nature's powerful yet delicate artistry.
The Cockermouth River carved a narrow canyon in bedrock on its way to Newfound Lake, beginning as the last ice age drew to a close.
Nature used grains of sand suspended in the current to carve the walls of the canyon into curious shapes and create potholes in the bedrock.
We found people jumping into the water and playing in the current.
This was the perfect spot to do some spiritual fishing.
We walked alongside the river over tree roots...
With every step there was something diferent to see.
We were only a couple feet in when we spotted our first mushroom.
There were so many varieties like this unusual black one.
While I was shooting this mushroom my thoughts drifted to a friend and colleague who was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the month. She had loaned to us a DVD that had photos of mushrooms from all over the world. I thought about how she would love this walk in the woods.
I turned around from where I was sitting to take in the beautiful fallen tree all covered in moss and soak in this peaceful, lovely experience when I noticed...
the smallest mushrooms.
If I hadn't stopped to pause, I would have missed this moment. Words can't describe how happy and peaceful I felt there. In that moment I decided that I would put together a mini accordian book of some of our mushroom photos for my friend Gloria. I had heard that she was declining quickly and it wasn't likely that she was getting out to enjoy one of her favorite places, nature.
We continued our walk finding mushrooms that look like they came from the bottom of the ocean.
We crouched down low to get a close up look of the mushrooms.
They posed beautifully for us.
Some were perched on fallen trees.
While others had little visitors.
I kept marveling at the variety.
It would be hard to pick one as a favorite.
I enjoyed watching my husband work his camera.
And then later see what he saw.
The largest mushroom...
and the reddest mushroom.
Finally it was time to head down to the river for what I came for, spiritual fishing.
I opened my hand and scooped down thinking of the river as my soul. I scooped deep to the bottom of the river bed.
And I picked up a collection of rocks.
The large one looked like an organ, like a liver.
I sat with it and listened for the message that it had.
I tried to capture the gold flecks that were sprinkled all over it.
It wasn't until two days later, when I was sitting with my photo of this rock and reflecting on what message it may have for me, that I made the connection. Gloria was diagnosed with liver cancer.
To me this rock resembled a healthy liver, a bright, shiny, sparkly liver. In my journal I asked the liver rock what message it had and using my non-dominant hand I wrote the reply: "My message to you is to take extremely good care of your body. You are too precious not to. You have intuitively already heard this message when you decided yesterday to take your clean eating to the next level by starting a green juice fast. The green juices will heal and restore your beautiful body. You are on the right track. Keep up the good work."
I returned the liver rock to the river.
I looked down from where I was sitting and picked up a couple more sparkly pieces.
I think of little stepping stones when I look at this collection of pebbles and mica. I know that each small step that I take leads me to making great changes.
The next day I worked on designing the sweet little book for Gloria.
It is a compilation of images some taken at Sculptured Rock and others from our walks at a nearby lake. I wrote a letter to Gloria explaining our outing and how I wanted to bring the forest to her.
When I went into work yesterday, I learned that I was too late in getting this book to her for Gloria had passed early on Sunday morning. Last night when I was looking at the shiny rock that I picked up I noticed that it looked like a wing. I took a black pen to it and added some details. It's Gloria's wing.
I thought back on our walk the day that Gloria had passed and I believe that she was indeed with us. I felt her presence there. Gloria was an amazing woman who touched the lives of everyone she met. She was a woman of integrity and service. She spent years working in the peace corps before coming to work at Catholic Charities. She was the kind of person who strove to do the right thing and lived by her deepest values. I can picture her clearly with her beautiful smile and sweet laugh. I am definitely a better person for knowing her.
I'm grateful to my husband for his willingness to join me on my impromptu adventures. As it turned out, it started to rain just as we left the state park and returned to our car. I believe we were just where we were meant to be.
Thank you for joining me on this touching journey.
May you find some moving water to fish in.
Kathryn Costa, Collage Diva + Creative Dabbler
Scuptured Rocks Natural Area is located on 251 Sculptured Rocks Rd. in Groton, NH