One night, the week before last, I drove out to Blue Jay Point, on the shores of Falls Lake, a 15-minute drive from St. Francis. The fifth grade class from our school was there, staying at a lodge for two nights with parents and teachers. There were activities throughout their days there. They spent time studying a pond – what lives there? They looked at insects and reptiles, birds and trees and plants. At night they brought out telescopes and looked up at the stars. They had free time to write in their journals.
When I arrived the students were getting ready to go fishing. There were fishing rods, tackle boxes, and small plastic containers of worms. We walked a dirt path down to the lake. It was cloudy out and cool. The students were excited to be outside at night, in a different environment, with their friends. At the shore of the lake, the teachers and parents showed the students how to bait a hook, how to cast a rod, how to wait for the fish. It wasn’t long before they were reeling in the fish. And the questions followed: how do I get the hook out? Will you help me put a worm on my hook? What kind of fish is this one, is it a bass?
In the distance, a boat with some people fishing. Someone pointed to the sky and a large bird – an osprey? an egret? – landing on an exposed log in the lake. One student said, look over there, a huge nest high in a tree, I wonder what that might be? It was time, on a Tuesday night, in a place that seemed far from the classroom and yet seemed to be its own kind of classroom. The fifth-graders were excited to catch their fish and let them go – you have Franciscan souls, I told them. The parents and teachers watched over it all, baiting hooks, wading into the water to untangle a line, taking pictures of the proud students holding their catches.
It got darker out and soon the students were told, last cast before we pack up and go back to the lodge. The fishing rods and tackle boxes and plastic containers of worms were gathered and we walked back up the trail to the lodge as the light of day gave way to the night sky. Later, driving back to St. Francis on a quiet road, I was glad I went, seeing the students and parents and teachers in another environment altogether, being outside in nature and alert to what’s there – a cool breeze through the trees, the sounds of creatures in water, the mystery of the night sky – and a sense that all of it was part of a greater, beautiful whole.
On this night, here was the beauty of the world God created and sustains. Here was something of the joy of shared communion – parents and their children, teachers and their students, the human world and the natural world coexisting. Here by the shore of a lake was a kind of indefinable wonder of being, an intuition of the holiness of God always present among us.
One final note: thank you to all who contributed to our 2016 Bishop’s Annual Appeal. Our participation rate was much higher this year than last, and we are grateful.
Blessings on your week!