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And the words of the hymns
no longer spoke to her—they talked of things she had long ago given up
believing, or were words that had no real meaning in her life. And the sermons
weren’t much better—entertaining perhaps, sometimes giving her something to
think about, but a good book or independent film could do the same. And besides,
she’d had to go when she was a kid and when her kids were young, but
No, she’d had enough. And
so she began walking in the woods on Sunday mornings. Alone with her thoughts
and the rustling leaves, she felt a freedom she had not known in a long time.
She got more from the sunshine than from a year of sermons, and the birds
surpassed any anthem she’d heard. This was good. This was right. The woods were
her sanctuary. The wind was all the preaching she needed.
This continued for some
time, until one day she realized that the birds sang together, and the trees
swayed as one, but she was by herself. No squirrel cared that she had a new
grandchild; no rhododendron could help her wrestle with her mother’s
Alzheimer’s. The flora and fauna did not face what she faced as a human, and so
could not offer their understanding. Nor could she really offer herself to any
So she returned to her
congregation. And she saw herself in the people who were trying to live what
they believed. And she heard her life in the hymns and the readings and the
sermons. (Or, at least, some of the time.) And she never gave up her walks in
the woods, but she realized she needed both.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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