Noticings – October 20, 2021


October 20, 2021 


I spent a few days of my study leave last week away at a retreat centre on Stoney Lake (northeast of Peterborough, ON). Solitude is good for my soul. I have been part of a group of men who have gotten together annually for this event. Of course last year it didn’t happen, and this year getting back to it felt more than a little odd. It was so strange after being apart from gathering with people to be back in proximity with them. (Yes, we were all double vaccinated and took appropriate health precautions.) To be honest, at times it was quite overwhelming to have so much stimulus at once – multiple conversations at meal times, sometimes intense sharing in circles, and just seeing other people every time you looked anywhere. It was lovely to be with the guys, but often I felt the need to escape. So I did – to Larry Island.

The guys nicknamed it that because I was spending all my down time on it. It’s not really an island – it’s just an outcropping of rock about 7 metres wide connected to the shore by an arched footbridge. Many of you will recall that when on retreats I often find myself connecting with a tree. Well, sure enough, within minutes of first setting foot on Larry Island last week I noticed a glorious tree. But it wasn’t a majestic, mature tree like I’m usually drawn to. It was a maple sapling only about 2 metres high. It drew me in because even this tiny tree had multiple colours of autumn leaves on it – shining in the unseasonably warm sunshine. With the water sparkling behind it as I looked at the little tree on Larry Island, I was immediately more at peace.

On the last morning of the retreat, as I was saying goodbye to Larry Island and writing in my journal, I heard two sounds that made me smile. A family of loons was swimming in the bay and I was listening to their calls and discussions. Then I heard the sound of some of the men singing softly to greet the morning (from the hot tub – I didn’t say it was rustic!). It was a curious choir to say the least. At first I thought of how marvellous it was that human conveniences and nature can blend together and become one. Then I thought some more, as the choir of loons and the choir of men each offered their songs, and I realized it was more intermingling than blending. Neither choir lost their uniqueness by their becoming a new thing in that moment, and the new thing was a blessing. Kind of like all us guys becoming one in the circle, while still maintaining our uniqueness, yet also being changed by the encounter. I don’t know if the guys in the hot tub heard the loons’ song, or if the loons heard the guys’ song – but I did – and their harmony was heavenly. And, as always, I came away grateful for the things that Larry Island teaches me.

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Rev. Larry