by Carol Hohle
Our women’s group, the Marinating Circle at The Well Spirituality Center in LaGrange Il, met Wednesday morning. It was a profound gathering. We contemplated the spirituality of place. Each of us shared some of the sacred places we’ve experienced and together we marveled in the variety of locations where we have found the sacred. Many of us have experienced spirituality in nature — by water or in our backyard or with certain trees, or in our own breath, at a beloved job, and in our open unstructured time.
When I first thought of my favorite sacred place I immediately recalled the woods in Weston, MA where I walked almost everyday over six years between 2005-2010. It was a special space that offered healing and pure refreshment. Walking with my dogs, we wandered down trails, through meadows and orchards, over Cherry Brook, and around College Pond. The scenes grew familiar but it was always a gift to notice the ebb and flo of the seasons. The walks “right sized” me and helped me find my place in the all of creation.
No one photo captures the meaning of my walks and so I gathered my photographs into a “video walk” where others can join me and walk through the seasons in my woods:
After making this video I thought about my walks since moving to Chicago in 2010. I have found the sacred near the shores of Lake Michigan. These walks, still with my dog, have also spanned six years now. And, so I gathered my photos last evening and set them to the same music:
Making these two videos gave me an opportunity to step back and see just how long I have been engaged in this spiritual walking practice and how much I cherish the natural world. I had not realized how the years added up to a dozen, or that the time was evenly split between Weston and Chicago. In looking over my photo gallery I also noticed how I photographed certain scenes over and over again – returning to observe them in different seasons and weather and lighting. These are places and scenes where I feel a special connection, a oneness with the view or the tree or the bud or flower or the sky, and where I listen and watch for the gifts they can teach me.
In reviewing the photos I smiled at the change in the Chicago scenes – how something manmade is almost always in every nature scene. I recalled how frustrated I was at first after moving to the city because I couldn’t get the buildings out of my nature pictures. And then it dawned on me that this chapter of photography, as in my life, is going to have to speak to the relationship of nature and humanity’s creation.
How grateful I am for the question our group facilitator asked of our Marinating Circle, “What does a spirituality of place mean to you? How has ‘place’ informed how you worship or experience the sacred?”
Where do you find the sacred?
If you’d like some time to reflect on the sacredness of place The Well is offering a morning workshop on May 12, Discovering God Through Nature Journaling with Evelyn Sommers, CSJ. Learn more.