The osprey are gone. Today I walked on my favorite path along the Clackamas River and the nest is empty. I haven’t walked this trail very often this year – it was too hard to do it without Charlie, who loved this walk (truthfully I think he loved every walk; it’s just that this one had so much water to play in!). But I’ve been there often enough to know Mr. & Mrs. Osprey had raised another family on the light pole overlooking the river. Their empty nest is another reminder (along with the rain and chillier weather we’ve been having in Portland the last week or two) that another summer is over.
I think I have a love-hate relationship with fall. This is a beautiful, cozy time of year but often melancholy for me. Next week will be the 10th anniversary of John’s death, and the first anniversary of losing Charlie. It’s hard to watch the days grow shorter and the darkness come earlier. There’s a sense of things dying. The ospreys’ absence is just one little death. The Canada geese, usually so abundant along the river, are missing also. The grasses all bear empty seed pods, the Canadian thistle and Queen Anne’s lace, the teasel and clematis have all gone to seed. The swallows (or martins or swifts, I’m not sure which) were still swooping in circles, hunting for insects, but they will soon be gone too. Heading south to warmth and longer days.
The osprey, the geese, the swallows and the green grass will return in the spring with the warmth of the sun. Most likely I will be here to greet them and celebrate their return like old friends. But I’ve lived long enough to know there is no certainty in where I will be or how I will be; I know today, right now, is the only certainty I have, and that has to be enough.
I have missed my contemplative walks in nature, where I find such a strong connection to the Divine. I’ve been reading St. Bonaventure’s The Soul’s Journey into God for my Living School program. It’s difficult reading; it might have been slightly less challenging had I ever taken a philosophy course, but I haven’t. However, it is stretching my mind a little.
He talks about the steps to Union, contemplative consciousness, and one step is seeing God in Creation, realizing the love and abundance and generosity in all things. But the next step is not only seeing that they are gifts from God, but seeing God present in all of creation, realizing how Creation mirrors the Divine. Just as we do not draw breath without it being God’s will, God breathing love into us, according to many theologians, so too does each created thing contain a spark of God’s love. And each thing is capable of love, because God is present within it. All of creation exemplifies and returns God’s love by being what it was created to be. And doing what it has been created to do, in the fullness of God’s time.
So by abandoning their nest for this year and heading to Mexico for the winter, the osprey are loving God. So too are the geese and all migratory birds and animals when they begin their journeys, and then next spring journey back to the Northwest. The grasses and other plants likewise are showing us how to let go and surrender to Love when they scatter their seeds and die. The trees show their love of God by reaching green arms to the heavens, waving them in the wind, but allowing those green leaves to turn golden, then brown, then drift to earth.
As I sit at my computer and think about this beautiful dance of the seasons, I can imagine God conducting the orchestra, and the symphony of love and creation, of living and dying, of the flow of life draws me deeper into this mystery. And I imagine God smiling with the beauty of it all, so in love with you and me, with the osprey and the teasel, with the trees and the river. What God has created delights God endlessly; and when we can see that, we, too, are delighted and desire nothing more than to be part of this beautiful melody.