Of Labyrinths and Lawns

Labyrinth echos

I feel like my sabbatical has begun in earnest now. The first few weeks were dedicated to a series of errands and tasks around the Rectory. Then there was a conference in Atlanta and a family wedding in Rhode Island I had the privilege to officiate.

A short time ago, I arrived in Cochecton, NY where the remainder of my sabbatical will take place.

The house I'm in is one I purchased four years ago and have considered a retreat as well as a 3D hobby since I like to have small projects to build or renovate. It's also given me a place to have “time away”. This phrase has become more important to me especially as I meditate on the scripture passages where Jesus leads his disciples to quiet places to pray or go by himself. We need such times and places to sit and be with God. “Time away” can be spent anywhere - a favorite vacation spot, a house in the country, the beach when few people are around or even a favorite soft chair in the living room when no one else is home. For me, it's Cochecton in a house I whimsically call Cochecton Abbey.

It's been a while since I've been up here and when I got out of the car I surveyed the lawn and praised God for making things grow and chided myself for letting them grow so much. It takes me roughly 90minutes to cut the lawn if I do it all at once – longer in tall grass. Finally after unpacking, it's me and lawn mower, I grunt and start.

The familiar patterns of mowing make the task rote So as I mow my mind wanders to a variety of areas. I replay the presentations of the conference which was on addiction. I recall the stories I heard, the things that I learned about others, myself and the challenges face by people in all walks of life and how addiction impacts them. I also replayed in my mind the time with my family. Weddings bring so many people together to reconnect and renew loving relationships that stretch over the time and distance of our lives and homes. For a brief time we're together again and it's wonderful. I begin to think of the house here and the plans I have for it. Some plans are immediate for this summer. Some plans are visions of possibility in that glorious place known as “someday”. I think of the prayer practice I want to cultivate and those who will eventually come to help me fashion a form of retreat or “Contemplative Time Away”. The time passes quickly as I give myself over to the thoughts, plans and dreams.

I look at the furrows left in the lawn, patterns visible where the mower has gone. I think of a labyrinth. that offers what I've just been doing. Walking and praying. My thoughts are actually prayers of gratitude, visions of hope, and inspiration for service. It's been time with God during a routine chore. Brother Lawrence is a medieval monk who found spiritual richness in the routine of the monastery kitchen as he went about his tasks. He wrote of this in humorous and profound ways. I think of him too as I go about my own chores. I realize I have a choice. I can do the chores as rote drudgery or I can do them as prayer. They still have to get done! But how I choose to do them will make a big difference.


Thanks, Bernie, for your thoughtful post. I'm glad you are finally settling in to the "real" retreat. I suppose that, arguably, it couldn't really begin until you went through some kind of activities as warm-up for the intended site.

You remind me that in high school I was quite taken by The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence. I can't say I've incorporated much of that in my life since then. Still, I think the idea is powerful. As I mow my own lawn this afternoon, I'll see that I do that more prayerfully. Maybe I'll even consider mowing my own labyrinth!

Thank you for this,


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