On day two of the retreat (see previous post) we were sent out into the garden to practise ‘Terra Divina’ – in simple language we were to spend twenty minutes listening to what God might say to us through the natural world.
Not knowing much about trees and birds I found this intimidating. However I was willing to give it a go and headed out to the only tree I recognised. A large cedar tree from where I could hear a big crow making a racket. I soon found out why.
Standing looking straight up the trunk I decided to count birds – the more you look the more you see.
I got as far as five when suddenly I saw something altogether different, something most “unbirdlike” – a cat! No wonder the crow had been upset.
About 25 ft above me and way out on a limb a little grey an white cat lay crouched in the foliage, staring down at me intently.
Now I know next to nothing about cats, was she stuck? Did she need rescuing? What should I do? What would Matthew (vet son) have me do?
Forgetting that this was meant to be an exercise in communicating with God and, to the possible amusement of the others in the garden, I spent the next 20 minutes blowing kisses into the tree and saying ‘here Kitty, kitty’, trying to get her to come down.
To no avail – she moved a couple of times, she tiptoed gently along the branch as if to come come down and then changed her mind and returned to original position.
Time was up. I had to go back in. I dashed to get my phone to take a photo (not really sure why?!) but when I came out she had begun her descent.
As her front paws hit the ground and the rest of her followed gently, she turned to me with a look of utter contempt ” you SILLY woman” she seemed to say, “did you really think I wouldn’t be able to climb down by myself?”
I had spent the whole time watching a cat and not listening to God that intently. What might the ‘cat in the tree’ have been saying me? “Yes, yes” I told God hurriedly on the way in to the next session, “I get the bit about being out on a limb and being a scaredy cat, is there more to it than that?”
Turns out there was. The cat had moved nonchalantly (without anxiety) in an unnatural environment, trusting it had the skills to be where it was. Apparently I’m supposed to do that too (metaphorically speaking, I’m not about to climb the trees in the church-yard).
In the following session we heard these words from John O’Donohue’s book Benedictus
“Awaken your Spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back
Learn to find ease in risk
Soon you’ll be at home in a new rhythm
for your soul senses the world that awaits you”
The words in bold stood out to me. Don’t stay where you feel it’s safe (on the ground) but trust me, trees are great places to be.
For the next exercise we all made paper boats and were invited to place them in a ‘river’.
I put mine hiding up a tributary.
A still, small voice said, ” you haven’t learnt much from the cat then?”
It turns out I’m meant to be a ship in full sail, catching the wind, trusting the current and heading out to sea.
A cat in a tree?
A ship on the sea?
At the risk of sounding like Dr Seuss, for the next (and final) one, we’ll take to the waves.