By Don Murray
A stillness falls upon the lake. The sailboats that graced the water for the fleeting summer months have gone to their winter homes. The joyous cries of children splashing in the water are no longer heard. The water skiers and water riders (all those things towed behind boats) have ceased to dot the lake. We miss the kayakers and canoers gliding serenely over the water. And, mercifully, the seadoos and their ilk no longer halt lakeside conversation.
The summer has slipped away. Labour Day has come and gone. The yellow school buses now gather the children for school. On the lake the haunting cry of the loon still echoes over the water. And the docks and wharfs and boats and all the paraphernalia of summer fun are still to be gathered in. But the season has changed. The friends and family who surrounded us during the summer have returned to their homes and we settle into the rhythms and rigors of the year ahead.
For us, it has been a wonderful summer. The summer may not have been an entirely relaxing time but the pleasure of having visitors and the joyous activity of the lake have kept us focused on the immediate moments of life.
And being out on the lake in the quiet hours of the morning – most lake folk are not early risers – and soaking in the surrounding beauty of water, sky, and trees, a profound appreciation of being alive seeps into the soul.
The wondrous mystery of being alive and aware, and knowing that we are alive and aware is a marvel worth pondering. At our recent conference, ‘Christianity: The Evolving Story,’ the reality and evolution of consciousness was talked about. The central theme of the conference was The Universe Story, which, with luck, will be the subject of my next column.
The gift of life is the greatest you will ever receive. While we are busy living we don’t tend to take much time to ponder and give thanks for the gift. But now and again we do. Beauty helps us to be aware that we are alive and conscious. Beauty evokes in us a sense of a larger awareness, a communion with something grand and more than we are. The beauty of the lake, the flower garden, a painting, a piece of music, can touch a deep place in us.
John Keats begins his poem Endymion, with the words, ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever/ Its loveliness increases; it shall never pass into nothingness.’
Awe is a natural response to beauty. To be awestruck is to be taken out of our everyday rational minds and caught up in something grand and wonderful. It is a primary gift of human consciousness. About four million years ago when the first creature who stood up on her hind legs and gazed into the heavens and said, “wow, what’s that all about,” we had started on our human journey. I say it was a ‘her’ who had that first experience of awe since in the biblical tradition is was Eve who took the first step into consciousness.
I’m sure everything, including the universe, is conscious in some way. As I have said in previous columns, we can’t get into the minds of other creatures, but humans seem to have taken it to another level. We are not aware of any other earthly creature creating an infrastructure that covers the earth as does ours. Nor are we aware of any other creature threatening the future of the planet as a habitat for life.
We don’t know what is happening elsewhere in the universe, but we know we are here on planet Earth with the gift of life and consciousness. Our eyes are the earth seeing itself, and with the help of the Hubble telescope seeing almost to the beginning of it all. We can well be in awe of the gifts we possess.
A canoe in the middle of the lake is a good place for a few reflective moments. Now, as we move from the enjoyment of the summer and the warmth of the people the who have enriched it, may we use the good we have known in whatever way is ours to carry on the work of the world and add to all that is positive and good.
Don Murray is a retired United minister. He lives in Shortts Lake.