Central to my cosmology is the belief that we live in an intelligent, alive, loving universe, from which we are inseparable.It's a universe that continually converses with us, communicating in many ways and listening – a responsive universe that invites connection.It is neither capricious nor indifferent.Nor is it a servant for us to command.It's a friend and a partner.In this relationship, influence is mutual.
I teach this belief.I hold it deeply.I forget it frequently.
I spent most of last week with three delightful traveling companions in the Quetico, a Canadian wilderness area where the primary modes of transportation are paddling and portaging – an ideal place for remembering and reconnecting.
An unusual stillness, very little breeze, characterized our first two days - gorgeous days – mild temperatures, azure sky with puffy white clouds - great days for canoeing.We found a spectacular campsite on EmeraldLake, whose crystal-green water reflected its name.
For most of the third day, it rained – a good day for extra sleep and quiet time in the tent.That morning, I made several attempts to meditate.A restlessness, bordering on unease, dominated my inner landscape, preventing anything that felt remotely like meditation.Hoping to re-orient with myself, I put pen to paper, journaling about mission and purpose.
Shortly into that exercise, I had one of those wonderful gift experiences where everything goes quiet, where the universe seems to say "hello" without making a sound.As I write now, I imagine the quiet center of my being and the quiet center of all being coming together in a way that slips through ordinary separation consciousness.The experience felt natural and familiar, something I can invite and make room for, but never control.
After a while, I emerged from my tent (which, thanks to the graciousness of my companions, was pitched high above the site on what we called the penthouse pad) and moved slowly down to the campfire area, which itself was a good ten feet above the water on a sloping rock face.My meditative state was startled by the sight of a huge snapping turtle, which had somehow made its way up the rock. I called immediately for others to witness this awesome scene.
The turtle (a mom, we suspect, intending to lay eggs) began digging in a little patch of dirt on the rock, seemingly oblivious to our presence, our clicking cameras, our gentle touching of her shell.Eventually, after nearly half an hour, she gave up the dig.Dirt was shallow in the spot she'd selected, and we, I suspect, were becoming a bit of a nuisance.She ambled down the rock, tumbled the last few feet into EmeraldLake, and swam away.
Later, after mid-afternoon naps, Kirk and I decided to go fishing in the rain.So far, brief attempts at angling had been a bust.Our Canadian license allowed us to keep only one bass apiece, and it could be no bigger than 13.8 inches.Within an hour or so, we'd each caught one, just within the maximum size.Since our meal for the night turned out mostly inedible, having fish to supplement was, indeed, a blessing.
Earlier in the trip, the group had decided to spend a third night at our Emerald site and to paddle the entire way back to the car (some 18 miles) on the next day – an ambitious feat, which would require favorable conditions.Around bedtime that last night, wind (absent most of the trip) started blowing, strong from the west – the direction we'd be heading into in the morning.
I woke a couple times during the night, aware each time of the wind still blowing strong.In the north country, west winds like that can go on for days without letup.Waking once more shortly after sunrise, with no change in conditions, I chatted with the universe, asking its help. I wasn't fearful or hopeful or insistent in the least, not expecting anything. I just asked and let go - total time, 5 seconds.
Twenty minutes later, the wind calmed and stayed that way until late afternoon, when we turned southwest for the last 7 or 8 miles of paddling.Just then, a big wind picked up again.This time it was from the northeast - a tail wind.It pushed a tired crew the rest of the way home.
Sunday afternoon, back in St. Cloud, as we were unpacking, my good friend and traveling companion on the trip, a very spiritual man and a self-described agnostic, marveled over the behavior of the wind on our return.He called it a miracle.
Hearing that word from him caught my attention and brought the whole trip into new perspective.It was one final, touching reminder of all the reminders Quetico had offered.
We are so interconnected with life – so loved.What we call miracles happen all the time – natural, ordinary, everyday occurrences – some, perhaps, more dramatic than others.