Summer days are full of activity. Neighbors are out of their homes, walking their dogs, tending to their yards, bringing home groceries. It is late afternoon, the windows are open, the breeze is blowing and birds are chirping. A cicada out sings the others. In the evenings, the once quiet air is now filled with the sound of crickets; it wasn’t so earlier in the summer.
Summer is nostalgic. The summer air and activity outdoors makes me feel nostalgic and homesick. Something about quiet, long summer days make me feel a bit sad, even though I love the sunshine. the colorful flowers, the lush green grass and full, leafy trees. I love how the sunshine casts shadows and dappled patterns on the wall, the sounds of the crickets and the birds, the soft breeze, and sweet blueberries in a white bowl on the table next to me.
Recently, I went down the street, to the bench where I like to sit and look at the river. That day was peaceful and still; no breeze whatsoever. The waters were calm; no wind-rippled surface on the river. No leaves rustling in the breeze. The only movement on the water was the water striders; dozens of them, sliding and skirting along the top of the water, without sinking, skating on the water’s surface.
I think that is what many of us want: peace. Peace of mind, peace in our lives, peace in the world. We seek inner peace, a rest from internal and external turmoil and circumstances. We want to have calm days.
Most of life, however, is not still like the river. I mean that in various ways and layers. Life isn’t an easy, smooth ride, as cliché as it sounds. Sometimes, we are negotiating forceful rapids. Other times, it may be a steady ride down the river. Tides threaten to rise and knock us over. Or we may get stuck in a drought if the river dries up. It rarely seems calm.
I wonder if elderly, lonely people who live alone, who have few visitors, feel that it is calm? They have seen much of life- and do they wish for something more? Do they long for less calm days?
Is that the kind of calm we are seeking? Surely, some of the challenges of a working life are not part of retirement, but there are other challenges. It seems each stage has its own learning curve.
Furthermore, we don’t want to be only seeking what’s comfortable “for me”; seeking only what’s easy and comforting for ourselves. That’s not how we’re called to live. But that is how many of us in affluent countries do live. Even those who seek this kind of peace (financial, material), still have the need for a deeper peace. We all do.
We have the individual rivers and we have the political rivers and we have the societal rivers and we have the relationship rivers and we have… so many. We negotiate life among numerous veins of a much larger river.
We can’t control much of the external conditions affecting our lives. We can control some- that which is indeed IN our control- but we have to know what we can and what we can’t.
We are seeking an inner peace, a place of internal calm and rest.
That internal peace does not come from ourselves. It surely does not come from me. I can’t conjure it up or drink a magical potion to create instant serenity or a peaceful sense of being.
The internal peace comes from an external source, God, who is actually an internal source living in me, through me.
I suppose that is another wondrous mystery.
Note: The photos above are of Lake Superior