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Do You Walk with the Pagans?

I need a counter weight to the entropy of narcissism. Children, dogs, and a walk in the woods are one of the ways I can get outside of myself. The challenge of living that I seek to follow is to establish a frame that is up and out rather than down and in. It is for this reason that I cherish my morning walks with the pagans.

Malibu, my English cream golden retriever, wakes me each morning at 6:00 a.m. She doesn’t care if it’s raining, snowing or below freezing outside. This is her time and she is on a mission. I’m her needed accomplice. Nor is her expectation a quick morning pee across the street. No, her plan is for an hour-long walk in the bird sanctuary near the 450-acre farm on which I live.

These morning walks have become a time for spiritual reflection. The smells, sounds, sights, and rhythms of the seasons have become the backdrop to starting my day. It is a time of quiet meditation of reconnecting to a world and story larger than myself. In this routine, I have sought to learn from the ancients, to recapture the sensitivities of pagans who expect ”reciprocity with the animate earth.”

Attentiveness to nature can be a portal to a bigger story and to a deeper spiritual reality. This was the genius of Celtic Christians in their interactions with pagan Druids. New Copernican spirituality is a connecting again to the ancients in service of a future faith. They are embracing an explosion of new approaches to spirituality, many of which have connections with ancient paganism. Sadly, many only go halfway, worshipping the window rather than seeing through it to another world away.

The Celts saw reality in a mystical or magical way. There was no assumed demarcation between the sacred and the secular, the invisible and the visible. All were interconnected signs of a deeper spiritual presence. Perceived reality was everywhere porous to the spiritual world. Theirs was the living social embodiment of Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s literary “magical realism” with its heightened awareness of mystery. Not only is reality saturated with mystery and spiritual presence, but also time and space, the unseen and the seen are intertwined. Theirs was a mystical or spiritual view of reality that assumed that everything involved more than meets the eye. The Celtic vision was a robust paganism cast now through a Christian sacramentalist lens that has similarities with traditional African and Native American sensibilities.

It is this unitive vision of an interconnected larger reality that I seek to learn again on my morning walks. As I think through the coming activities of the day ahead, it is with this backdrop of a spiritualized created order and it meta-story that enfolds my days’ personal plot.

The Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit is the wild goose—hence the Wild Goose Festival. I see them almost daily. I’ve added to this the Bald Eagle as a symbol of God the Father, and the fox as Jesus, the incarnate Son. I look for all three on my walks. Some days are special when I have what I call a “Trinitarian Morning.” The Eagle, fox, and geese remind me of a deeper reality that enfolds my life, whose story is what gives me mine. It was not for exercise that C.S. Lewis took a daily walk; it was to be reminded that there is truth to be found up and out of our inverted gaze.

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