It is a difficult experience to leave a person that you love and to think that we will never meet again. But what about places? Have you felt bad when you left a place that you liked? Surely. But have you paused to ponder why and what to do about it? That was my experience leaving Manresa.
There were several places in Manresa itself that I felt nice about – the chapel of Our Lady of the way ( I could not go inside but just sat outside), the Basilica, the Light Well, the hill top opposite the cave, the river side, the waters of Cardoner and of course the Cave of Ignatius itself. Within these generalizations there are particular places that I sat and enjoyed nature, let my spirit commune with the divine, sang a song in the silence of my heart, took a pebble and looked at it in wonder and reverence, caressed a flower, looked at a stem of grass swaying in the wind and wondered about the marvels of nature. There were trees under which I took shelter from the sun, or looked at their leaves and branches dancing to the music of the wind. Now that I am leaving Manresa I thought I should say good bye to these places and some of the objects that attracted me.
My rational mind ridiculed the idea – ‘how can you say “good bye” to a dumb tree or a flower or a grass? It is ridiculous; it is naïve and archaic’. There was another voice deep within which said that the spirit of the grass, the flowers, trees, pebbles and the grains of sand had touched my spirit and I had enjoyed their company and for eternity we will never see each other again. I will never meet that blade of grass or that violet coloured flower that sprouted from the crevice of the rock. How could I ever go away without saying “thank you and good bye” to them? These had helped lift my spirit move towards a different plane. I should say “good bye”. It is only good manners! And so I set out.
On the roadside there were yellow flowers of different sizes swaying in the wind. I looked at them and said, “good bye, we will never meet again but thank you for being what you are” and I proceeded. There were ‘weeds’ all over, swaying in the wind and I ran my hand over them as I walked and said the same. Then came the pebbles on the road and the small grains of sand, the tiny flowers in pink and red and white. I paused, looked at them and believe me, they seem to look at me with curious eyes. I said, “thank you for being what you are; you have touched my life and I have changed”. A mild wind came and they danced as if replying me in silence. I could have stayed there for a long time but I left and on the way I had more friends – the grass, the weeds, the thorny flowers, the red flowers, the orange ones and the white ones – all seemed to be happy to see me and I was being overwhelmed by their presence, attention and happiness. And yet I had to tell them that I have to go and we would never meet again. That was tough both for me and for them too, I guess. At last I reached the hill top. There was a strong breeze from the south; the grass made patterns in their swaying to the wind. I paused. I enjoyed both the breeze and the swaying of the grass. I sat under the shadow of small shrub. Thanked the shrub for the shadow and enjoyed the breeze. A bird called out to its companion. They flew over me. They were on a journey; I too was on a journey; in fact the whole universe was on a journey and this journey would not end until it ends in its Creator.
I sat there; looked deeper into the earth and to my surprise noticed tiny grass, flowers and plants that were so beautiful – everything seemed to be beautiful now – grass dancing in the wind; flowers soaking in the western sun peeping through the clouds; birds – some in flight, some chirping in the bush. This was a microcosm, the whole of the universe laid out for me to reach the Almighty. It was too much, too little time to say anything properly. As Tagore would say, ‘the song that I came to sing remained unsung’. The veena of my heart was not tuned to accompany my song. And so I got up and traced my steps back. On the way I could see and feel my friends looking at me from the nooks and crevices of the rocks – some call them flowers or weeds; but I call them companions on the journey. Finally with a heavy heart that is not satisfied with what it had done, I traced my steps back to the residence.
Did I see God in nature? Is this the beginnings of what Ignatius calls contemplation to obtain love of God? Is this what we mean when we say, ‘seeing God in everything and everything in God’?
I do not know; something touched me and I have changed. I cannot name it. It feels good; brings tears of joy to my eyes and so I say from the depths of my heart, “Thank You Lord for the flowers, the weeds, the shrubs, the grass, the stones, the pebbles and the grains of precious sand. Thank you for the birds, the wind, the sun and the clouds – thank you for the earth that you have laid out for me. Thank you so much”.
The next day I left Manresa, leaving a part of me there!"
Thank you George!