Thursday 25th March 2021

Day 37 Prayer Paths

My daily walks nearly always take me to the woods. I love Elmstead Woods, they have been a friend for the last 27 years or so, and I never tire of them. They truly are a cathedral for me, a temple of God’s Intimate Presence and glory. If the woods are a temple, then the paths and tracks around them have become daily prayers. I have particular paths in the woods that I love, and on a whole I tend to follow the same route each day. They are trails and paths that others have walked over many years, not just human life, but animal life also. My dog Noah has shared them with me for almost 12 years, and Tyke before him; also foxes, squirrels, and other wildlife. I once saw a white ferret up there! The use of these paths and trails and tracks unite all their users in the life of the wood, they are prayers, mantras, that are “said” with the rhythm of footsteps that draw us into God’s Presence. Walking is a very valid form of prayer; when we walk we let our minds go and free up space for God to commune with us. Tracks, paths, and trails are like mantras and liturgies that allow us to enter into their flow.
The paths are there whatever happens in my life. Those daily paths receive so much of me, and receive the load I carry. I can begin the walk with a sack full of stress or concern, but they rarely fail to relieve me of them before I arrive back home. Sometimes they are paths that I skip along in praise and thanksgiving, and they join me in that act of inner worship. Over the years they have inspired me to write sermons, talks, or poems; they have helped work through problems, make decisions, solve conundrums. Those paths on my daily walks have been there for me, and they still are. They help connect me with my soul. Many other paths and tracks in different parts of the country are also special for me, but the tracks in the woods are my daily friends and companions and always have a special place for me.
Going out for a daily walk, whether it is in woods, parks, fields or streets, will connect us with the paths we walk; and they will soon become familiar friends and prayers that guide us through each day.

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Psalm 27:11
Teach me your ways, O Lord, lead me on an even path

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When we walk we dance:
Dance with the pavement, dance with grass,
Dance in the fields, dance in woods,
Dance on tracks, dance in valleys,
Dance in sunshine, dance in rain,
Dance on clouded, muddy terrain;
Dance with life, going on all around us,
With people in streets, with birds in the air;
Dance with joys, dance with sorrows,
Dance with hopes, dance dreams,
Dance with nature, dance with seasons,
Dance just for fun, pr with purpose and reason.
When we walk we dance:
Dance in the moment, dance with each step
When we walk we dance,
With the Holy in life.
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Stephen Altschuler

Unlike people, who are constantly trying to make things happen, the trail receives whatever comes. It rejects nothing, nor does it judge or choose, or laments what it gets. It represents the “meek” of the beatitudes, and the trail is indeed the beneficiary of an inheritance that it is willing to share. The trail and its surrounding forest are rich beyond any human concept of wealth…. The trail is always there, whatever the trouble, whatever the time, steady as a stone….receiving my monologues, offering refuge from a busy noisy world.