What are my spiritual practices now that I’m retired? No one in particular has asked me this question. My prayer sisters (especially one) keep on me about a church-going practice. But, no, I ask myself the question on this quiet day in November with the sun shining, Temma sitting beside me in her wheelchair looking tired.
Greeting Temma each morning, fixing her breakfast and my own, sitting beside her bed feeding her and myself, is one of my spiritual practices. I’m reminded of Sr. Kathleen, one of the speakers at a five-day Spiritual Academy I attended some years ago. One evening I sat by her at dinner and in our conversation shared that along with being an ordained clergy in the UMC I’m also the parent and guardian of an adult daughter with disabilities—severe and profound disabilities as the medical field labels it. The next day when Sr, Kathleen spoke with the group she called me out as one who is engaging the spiritual practice of greeting and caring with her daughter each morning. I was dumbfounded and tear-struck. No one had ever described my routine with Temma a spiritual practice. Not a practice that I chose out of some book, it chose me more like it. Maybe that’s what makes it a spiritual practice?
I’ve been engaging another spiritual practice in retirement of writing with pen and paper, my story with Temma. Its slow going. I’ve been working on this memoir for the last ten years or more, always on computer, small pieces that I write and edit and refine, sending them to magazines or contests, including some of them in sermons. But never have I gone on and on, writing the complete story in longhand, telling myself not to go back but forward. I’m into my second notebook now. I figure about 75,000 words I have of a ”shitty first draft” as the writer Anne Lamott coined it. I’m learning so much about myself. For one thing, how most days I’d rather do anything else than continue writing. (Anne Lamott describes that too.) It becomes a spiritual practice and I’m learning to listen more attentively than ever before.
Another spiritual practice I’ve been engaging is an every other day three to four mile walk in Busse Woods, a beautiful forest preserve very near to where we make our home now. The discipline of exercise is not altogether new, it’s the place and my practice of attention to it. There’s a large lake in the part of the preserve where I make my walk. It’s beautiful. My sighting of snow-white egret(s) has become an anticipated event. Of course, the egret(s) have left for the season, but I feel like I’m still seeing and speaking with her/them from far away. I’m coming to know the turn in the trail here, the tree that explodes into fire there, the place where a woodpecker will often show up here. It’s becoming my prayer geography and the egret a sighting of the Spirit. I look forward to their return. In the meantime I keep walking.