As I was walking near the lake on the retreat house grounds, enjoying the beauty around me, I was reminded of an experience I had on our recent vacation in the Canadian Maritimes.
As I’ve written before, I love Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, God’s Grandeur. Its opening lines often come almost automatically to mind when I am in nature: The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
This particular day on vacation, I had read a few too many news articles in the morning. I can’t remember now which ones got me down – it could have been any number: immigration, the situation in Venezuela, Congress’ shenanigans with health care, a police shooting, an attack on a mosque or a church somewhere…. The point is, I was feeling quite down about the state of the world.
That day, here is where I was walking on rocks, listening to the surf, gazing at the sky.
It was gorgeous and I felt incredible peace. And as I stood there, lines from Hopkins’ poem came unbidden to my mind. Only this time what came to mind were the words of the final quatrain of the poem, the part that comes after the middle one that talks about men not “reck[ing] his rod,” and all wearing man’d sludge. What came to mind, what gave me deep consolation, were these words:
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
That is a reminder I sometimes need. It is a reminder we all need.