Yesterday marked the 27th anniversary of our wedding. Like most couple who mark such milestones we remember what we once looked like and the people who were at our wedding. Some of that number is gone from us now and so we remember them perhaps more vividly. Others like our own children, the very fruit, of our union and who have been and continue to be the focus of our lives seem to have with us since the beginning. That cannot be but it seems that way.

We spent an overnight in Buffalo, New York. Traveling a short 50 miles from our home doesn’t seem like much of a trip yet it provided us with a memorable overnight in the Queen City. We had great accommodations at the Embassy Suites there. A short trip to Niagara Falls last night after a great dinner at our hotel.

This morning we rose early to watch our daughter, Dara compete in the  Buffalo Marathon. She actually competed in the half-marathon. A thirteen mile run in no mean accomplishment and she did it in two hours and two minutes. We were very happy for her. Following the race and checking out of our hotel we traveled across the border to Ft. Erie and then up the Niagara Parkway past the Falls and on to Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON.   Niagara-on-the-Lake was mobbed today and so we only tarried long enough for a couple of tarts and juice. On our return trip on the Parkway we decided to pull off and enjoy the peaceful backdrop of the Niagara River.

There is something about the peaceful and contemplative setting of still waters. Whether I find myself along the Cooper River in South Carolina or the still waters of the Niagara along the Canadian border I return renewed and refreshed.

“he leads me beside the still waters.”

Life in the country

I got this quote in today’s mail and it made me grateful for my own life and even the past two days which were spent not in my own country but in the lake country of Canada. Diane and I spent a weekend at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario at a lovely bed & breakfast called Blueberry Gate. Our hostess treated us very well and we’re likely to return. We got to enjoy a couple of performances at the Shaw Festival and very little television and only sparse internet, enough to send some text messages to our children and an update or two on Facebook.

This will give us some idea of the proper preparation that the contemplative life requires. A life that is quiet, lived in the country, in touch with the rhythm of nature and the seasons. A life in which there is manual work, the exercise of arts and skills, not in a spirit of dilettantism, but with genuine reference to the needs of one’s existence. The cultivation of the land, the care of farm animals, gardening. A broad and serious literary culture, music, art, again not in the spirit of Time and Life-(a chatty introduction to Titian, Prexiteles, and Jackson Pollock)-but a genuine and creative appreciation of the way poems, pictures, etc., are made. A life in which there is such a thing as serious conversation, and little or no TV. These things are mentioned not with the insistence that only life in the country can prepare a [person] for contemplation, but to show the type of exercise that is needed.

Thomas Merton. The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation. William H. Shannon, editor (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003): 131.