A Walk in Lodhi Gardens

Lodhi Gardens

28 December 2008

The distinct odor of exhaust and pollution hangs in the air.  It covers the visibility of the sky above and sticks to my lungs.  High above black Kites soar in circular patterns over the city.  There isn’t a place nearby for a vantage on my two feet, although I’m not sure there’s much to see.  It is warm, or at least to my perspective 50F degrees is warm.  In the gray Seattle mist, 50F can be chilling.  This sunny 50F in Delhi feels pleasant and welcome, considering I had left my normally rainy home with a foot of snow on the ground.  So even when the overnight temperature in Delhi dropped to 40F, and Delhi wallahs were cold, I felt fine.  No thank you, I don’t need an extra sweater.

Lodhi GardensThe moment spent gazing at the soaring Kites in the afternoon haze is suddenly jarred by my reality of Delhi–a near miss with a person, animal, or vehicle of some sort.  This time it was a man on a walk.  This place isn’t crowded, I almost ran into him because I wasn’t paying attention. Wising up, I also notice there are runners.  As I breathe in shallowly, I wonder how anyone could run in this stagnant choking air.

However, for the moment, I am satisfied with this mostly unobstructed walking path.  Lodhi Gardens is one of the few places of clean open space in the densely populated city of Delhi.  The walk exercises my legs, which are desperately in need of movement after 20+ hours of travel on packed planes the previous day.

Lodhi Garden walkMy friend’s mother is chatting, and I chat, too, all the while my senses are on high alert, recording my surroundings for future use.  Of special note are the ruins built by ruling powers of long ago.  These structures stand in contrast to the families who sit on the open grass, talking and eating.  I wonder about the families and their stories.  The old Mughal period architecture surely has stories, too—of their builders, those buried beneath the stone, and of the millions of passers-by over the years…

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My Friend and Guide, the Heron

Tonight I became convinced that the Great Blue Heron is my animal spirit guide.  I have seen the Blue Heron many times this year, and each time has been a spiritual encounter.  I saw one at Discovery Park and multiple times at the Ballard Locks.  I haven’t been to those places lately, and I miss the walks I used to take.  Lucky me that Herons inhabit near my home.  The following is my winter encounter with the Blue Heron, and has awakened my spirit to her guidance of me…

Heron

Tonight I met a friend—or should I say, tonight a friend met me.  Her sudden appearance was a welcome sight along a dark road on a cold night.   Head bowed, body tense, I walked along a path next to the canal, lost inside my wandering mind.  With a deep breath of chilly December air, I looked up and saw the silhouette of her body atop a rock against the lights across the canal.   Silently and still, she stood, as if she, too, were in contemplation.  My feet stopped and body paused.  I called out to her.  “Oh friend!  I see you.  Where have you been?”  And I realized that I too, have been absent from these waters where we used to meet.  I called out again, “Oh me!  Where have I been?  Too long has it been since I saw you last.  Let us stand here and know each other.”  I stood there, breathless, recalling past encounters with my friend, the Heron.   Each time she stood in water, off at a distance, but the essence of her presence near to me.  Each encounter was mostly silent, though rich with meaning.  When it was time for me to go, I said goodbye and strode down the path.   Oh Blue Heron, watcher over my life, protect me and guide me through this cold winter night!

talking with the sea

Distant Olympics

On Monday my friends and I went walking. The day was ours to explore, and explore we did. We traveled from our homes in urban Seattle to the grandeur of the Olympic Peninsula and spent the day at Dungeness Spit. The spit, the longest natural sand spit in the United States, is also a wildlife refuge.

Sand, all around. Rocks. Water–the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca. Birds of many sorts. Distant mountains with craggy peaks rise from some point in the horizon–the origin lost to my eyes that only see water and mist and mountain.

I was surrounded by these members of creation in the company of good friends. And, in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, the members of creation are indeed my friends, too. Deeply embedded in the moment, I was laughing, observing, playing…with very little thinking. At least not until the very end of the adventure at Dungeness Spit. The spit is narrow and long, not many places to wander off, and yet one can feel completely alone there. This aloneness was not an empty sort. No. This was a realization that my friends ahead of me and behind me were spaced enough, such that I could talk to myself and no one would hear me. It was an opportunity to be alone with God.

Speaking this aloud awoke something inside me, and out poured thought and emotion. With friends behind and before me, I walked…and I talked to the waters of the advancing tide. As I walked, I danced about the waves to avoid wet feet. But I wanted to be as close to the water as I could get.

What am I doing? What am I going to do? Why, amongst friends, is there still a hint of loneliness buried within? But I’m happy, so why can’t I be content with the joy and love that is in front of me? How am I going to find a job? How am I going to have surgery to remove my tumors? Some days, it doesn’t even seem possible.

These questions came with the ebb and flow of the waves. I kept looking around–at the driftwood on the shore, the mountain peeks in the distance, and the waves in front of me. And in a moment of lostness in the cycle of land, sea, and air around me, I heard a response.

The crash of a wave brought these words to my lips: slow down.

slow down. That’s it. I’d rather not dissect and figure out what it means. I’d like to live into it, whether or not those two simple words bear any meaning or resolution to the questions on my heart.

Slow down.

And that I did. I had no concept of time, and I lost all sense of place in that moment. Hunched down next to the sand, I slowed my breathing and affixed my eyes to the water with words of prayer on my lips. The desire to stay in the comforting arms of the rolling waves was strong, like the lingering touch of lovers. But I had to pull away, and like the lovers, I savored the moment, said goodbye for now…but not forever. The Sufi mystic Rumi writes of the lover and beloved as one’s relationship with God…this is what I mean. Rumi, like the German poet Rilke, is one of my spiritual companions.

This mystical moment soon faded back to a reality of fun in the here and now. That is important, too.

Slow down. Take time. Notice things. Appreciate what I have. Be grateful for friends. Rejoice. Breathe. Laugh. Love.

Oh God, help me to make this so!

night walk

Seattle by night

I saw the evening fade into dusk, and the dusk fall into night. I saw the clouds, silhouetted in the west, and I watched them vanish from the night sky. I saw the glimmer of the waxing moon and the slow appearance of distant stars.  I saw the flashing lights on an airplane dance in the distance.  I saw the darkness, deep and still.  Darting through the stillness of this splendor, I saw a shooting star.  And after several miles of walking, an hour of sitting and laying, I came home and saw the fog cover my night sky, only the bright moon peeking through.

Tonight I saw the night as a place of comfort, a place of wonder, and a place to take my worries and launch them into space.  Tonight I took a walk, and it was good.