This morning I was down at the riverside park for sunrise. The sky was quiet. There were no dramatic streaks of color, just a serene lightening toward day. The moon lingered, a gorgeous waning orb in the west. Mist drifted above the water, testament to the frosty air. Two eagles soared by, and a flock of geese arrowed across the sky. A few mergansers glided across the still water. The fish were active, rising to the surface to create small splashes and concentric rings. Far off I could hear a woodpecker rat-a-tat-tatting. I soaked in the pre-dawn calm.
Soon a car arrived and then another pulled in. After a moment of confusion, I saw a man set up a lectern, and realized there was probably going to be some sort of Easter sunrise service. I didn’t want to get blocked in the parking lot, as I was hoping to catch the red-winged blackbirds singing in a nearby marshy area. If I was lucky and the lighting was right, I might be able to catch their breath in a photo. There’s something so amazing about that to me. At any rate, as a few other service goers arrived, I walked over to my car, feeling grateful and replete.
A man stepped up next to me. “Stay for the services,” he smiled.
“No, thanks,” I responded. “I’ve just been watching the eagles and the sunrise. I’m heading over to the Abbadagasset to see the birds there.”
“You’re missing the Lord,” he replied.
“I have my own way to worship,” I said, getting into my car.
Driving away, I felt a bit taken aback. What should I have said? I’m not a religious person, but hadn’t I just told him I was admiring what he would say are “God’s creations”? Also, wasn’t it presumptuous of him to comment at all on what I was doing. He might think I was “missing the Lord”, but I had to wonder if he was missing the point. Probably it was good that I hadn’t said that.
His words were with me all morning. I wouldn’t say they upset me, but they were there. They were there as I arrived at the next river to watch an osprey soar. As I listened to the red-winged blackbirds call through the marsh. As I heard the far-off lament of migrating geese, and delighted in the antics of two beaver. They were with me as I drove home and en route saw yet another eagle and more mergansers and celebrated the return of the swallows.
They’re still with me as I write this post, hours later.
It was a glorious morning. I was filled with gratitude. In my opinion, I was missing nothing.
I’m sharing a poem I wrote 4 or 5 years ago. It feels like the perfect one for today.
My Kind of Worship
Sunrise service at the river
I think the bystander missed the Lord. Because I believe God is in each one of us. He didn’t see you, so he didn’t see God in you. He missed the point of the very resurrection he was there to celebrate.
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Thanks, Margaret. It was an odd encounter.
Here are some words to keep handy if that happens again. From Rumi: “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” You can hear Allan Wolf and The Dead Poets sing this (gorgeously) in short form on IG for NPM Day 9 or on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOORgnHXQUg)
“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer (or the camera, as the case may be*).
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
― Jelalludin Rumi (*my words, not Rumi’s)
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Oh, that’s lovely, Mary Lee. Thanks so much for sharing.
hi wonderful sunrise worshiper Molly. you are totally on track with your measured kind response & understanding that this person’s soul is likely empty. i’m spiritual & like Margaret, above, feel that God’s presence is ever ready in all living things but I have come to understand that the strict denomination I was raised in & another one I have see up close through other family members, does more to divide people than unite them. Sadly, this feels tru for various doctrines the World over. Perhaps Quakers & Unitarians would have had a more gentle invite to you on that special Sunday morning. You were grateful for Mother Earth & all the creatures she presented to you. I appreciate your post about this.
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Thank you, Jan. You and your prayers of praise and gratitude are always an inspiration to me.
Sent to our tree-hugging, and by that I mean “give a sh**,” friends in Mendocino County, California. We agree. We love your worship.
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