by Catherine Doherty.
The green wall around my island is thick now, and the island has become a green cell. Few people going in boats down the river or looking at my island from the mainland, would guess there is a house there among the whispering bushes and the tall green pines.
Only a bridge leading from the mainland to my island betrays the presence of habitation within its living walls of green.
Squirrels, chipmunks, the occasional waddling porcupine, and an endless variety of birds know all about my island, as does a heron and his family who nest close by the bridge on the island side, and, I am sure, they would tell the secret of my island to anyone who cared to listen.
As I sit before my lovely big cross, I wonder what has happened to us as human beings. All of us hunger for the open spaces and the simple life, but few do anything about it.
As I go away from my island, a-lecturing throughout the busy, crowded world of cities and suburbs, I hear, like a sort of dirge, like a dark refrain through some inner unsung melody that plays its mournful tune on the hearts of men and women everywhere—"Oh, if we could only get out of this rat race and live some place where it is peaceful and quiet and close to nature."
Yet, before one can really implement this desire, one must begin a pilgrimage of opening one’s eyes and unplugging one’s ears.
This pilgrimage begins with prayer to Christ, the Lord, who made a blind man see, and who opened the ears of a deaf man, but who also said, "You have eyes and see not, ears and hear not" (cf Mark 8:18).
For before you can find peace anywhere, you must have silence and quiet in your heart and in your mind.
Then when your eyes are opened and your ears are unplugged, you will see the birds that come to perch on your porch or on the tiny handkerchief lawn that you have before your house. You will notice the lonely bush of lilacs that blooms in the neighboring yard or in a park.
Like St. Francis of Assisi, you will find many little animals and birds to talk to right where you live. What is more important, you might even learn to listen to them. If you do, I guarantee they will tell you many secrets of God and many secrets about people, too—nice secrets.
Flowers in the home, on the window sill, will sing to you about Nazareth. Our Lady must have had many flowers growing in her house. Taking the children to the park can be an exciting adventure.
Little sparrows, if you listen, will take you from Bethlehem to Golgotha. They might even tell you about that great Sunday when they heard the stone roll away and saw the Lord come forth from the tomb.
A trip to the zoo, with a Bible in hand, is a most extraordinary adventure. So many of the animals are mentioned there.
And why not start a collection of donkeys, for instance? An image of even one will tell you all about the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and back again, and all about Palm Sunday, too.
It is wonderful, of course, to get into the open and talk to wild animals, but that isn’t given to everyone. But there are lots of birds and animals in the city.
My friends, the animals, tell me many things in my green cell.
—Excerpted and adapted from Restoration, August 1962
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