Be Still

Three great horned owls in a tree
December 16, 2021

Below is a personal reflection written by Louisa Bruinsma. We hope it inspires your own practice of stillness or sacred pause during the season of Advent, as we wait for the light or as we begin to take in the wonders of Creation’s wintertime. Consider using For the Love of Creation’s Sacred Pause resource to guide your practice.

Be Still

By Louisa Bruinsma

Have the last 18 months taught us anything?  Have those times of foregoing restaurant visits, hugging grandchildren or grandparents, or lustily singing hymns in church, or confining ourselves in our homes – have those times made us grow spiritually in any way?

They have. And, just to be fair — with full disclosure — I am a “retired” person, with a pension, and loves to be outdoors, living with the (same) spouse for 47 years, and have all three of my children and three grandsons living in the same city. So, I admit that my comments are coming from a place of privilege during the pandemic.

COVID has been a way to make me more aware of who I am, and of my (very small) place in God’s earth.

When I put the world “retired” in quotation marks, it was because I was not fully “retired” during COVID. I continue to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) for six hours a week.  I had to learn to do it via ZOOM. Furthermore, I had to show 26 students (many of them seniors, all who did not know English, many without IT skills) to learn ZOOM so they could take the classes.  I learned it; they learned it, and – wonder of wonders – it worked, and it was the highlight of the week for many who could not get out of their homes, who could not visit a library or grocery store, but who could laugh and enjoy the company of others through times when their community was non-existent. The technology was a gift, and the bonus is that now many of my students can ZOOM with their relatives all over the world.

I live in Edmonton. Winters are cold.  Real cold.  My husband and I, no matter what the temperature (even at -25C) daily walked 5 Km in the river valley park near our home.  In the spring of ‘20 we were gifted with watching a family of Great Horned Owls grow up – Mom, Dad and three youngsters.  We pointed out the owls whenever we met other folks walking. Their incredible joy of their seeing “our” owls was amazing.  People thanked us afterwards – as though we could take credit for the owls being there.  Gradually a host of groupies showed up each day, many with their long telephoto lens. The moments of awe were an experience beyond description.

Family of Great Horned Owls (Photo Credit: Louisa Bruinsma)

As the days lengthened, we brought a small bag of sunflower seeds along on our walk for the chickadees.  We were sure they began to recognize my husband’s Tilley hat, because they would badger us as soon as they saw us, and came to our outstretched hands even before we had seeds on them.  One day was especially poignant. While feeding the chickadees, we met a couple whose daughter had disappeared in the park three years earlier.  We shared our seeds with them to feed the chickadees. After the mother felt the little feet of the chickadee on her hand, she told us that now she felt a peace that her daughter was okay. The chickadee had brought her that assurance.

There was something about the rhythm of those daily walks that gifted us with a sense of restfulness that is unexplainable.  This spring we’ve seen a couple of garter snakes, chipmunks, a grand pelican, a beaver warning us off with a slap of his majestic tail, and once a white weasel camouflaged by the snow.  All this, right in the middle of the city of Edmonton. Today I picked saskatoons on our walk. They were sweet beyond belief.

We met our children and grandchildren outdoors, bundled in layers of coats and blankets, around a firepit, and with some hot chocolate and Baileys. There was something about it that was sweet and special, and good.

Amidst the anxiety and fear of COVID, our great God mothers us and reminds us that she is taking care of our world in ways that we will never begin to fathom. That is the gift of standing still, and listening, to the creation.  It speaks, and COVID had given some of us the gift of time to listen. Creation can groan, but COVID has made us also listen to creation sing.

Woman outside with hand extended and bird sitting on her hand
Louisa with a chickadee