In the middle of October, when the nights grow cool and there is a hint of fall in the air, I love to sleep with my window open. It is a delight to smell the fresh, cool air and snuggle under the protective warmth of my comforter and my dear dog. I remember one morning, just before dawn, in an October morning in Chattanooga, I woke to the sound of crickets. Instead of realizing I was hearing real crickets, I fumbled for my iPhone thinking someone was calling me. Yes, my ringer was set to the sound of crickets, for nostalgias sake. OMG, how much do I love the sound of crickets? When I lived in Alaska and California, there were no crickets, and I missed them something awful. No crickets or fireflies, can you imagine?
Welcome to the 21st century, where your phone ringer can play music (any song you like if you are willing to pay for it), church bells, jazz guitars, motorcycles, dogs barking, and, will wonders never cease, an old-fashioned telephone. I once set my phone to sound like a barking dog for when my older son called but the problem was that I rarely answered in time because it sounded too realistic, it took time it to register that it wasn’t a dog but my phone! My son thought I was avoiding him, so the bark had to go.
My favorite time of day in Asheville is sharing a morning walk with my dog, Zoey. Most mornings we get in the car and drive to Lake Louise. The usual suspects are there with their dogs or their walking buddies. We nod with recognition of our shared morning ritual. The freshness of morning invigorates me as I listen to the ducks and the occasional geese and watch them feeding along the shoreline of the lake. Zoey sniffs every bloody inch of grass as if the landscape had somehow changed from the day before. Of course, it is has changed, there have been wild turkeys, bears, moles, and God knows what else passing through in the night. When the mornings are warm, I watch the edges of the lake for turtles peaking their head out of the morning mist. It’s a treat, and when I don’t see them, I feel a loss as if seeing a turtle everyday brings me luck.
I feel especially lucky when I hear that familiar honking overhead and look up to see a gaggle of Canada geese migrating in their “V-formation.” It’s magical. National Geographic reports “Geese can cover 1,500 miles in just 24 hours with a favorable wind! By flying in “V-formation” rather than in isolation, the whole flock adds 70% greater flying range. When the “leader” tires, he falls back to rest, and another takes his place. Teamwork and shared responsibility pay off, and I never tire of looking up to witness their wisdom. Lake Louise is a popular sanctuary for the Canadas as they head out on their journey in both Spring and Fall. But the wisdom of the morning doesn’t end here.
One morning, just as the sound of the geese began to fade, I heard an owl hooting in the distance. As I paused to savor the sound and thought about how as a society we have “adapted” to the noise of traffic, leaf blowers, construction sites, and the blather of endless political scandals of the day on the news or radio. I remember moving from Seward, Alaska to Berkeley, California, and the jarring culture shock I felt. I couldn’t fall asleep without earplugs for weeks but after a while I adapted, and the noise didn’t bother me. Adaptation is a remarkable survival tool, but what have we lost in our adapting?
It seems that everywhere I look, people are walking with earbuds or headphones listening to music or talking on the phone even when they are walking in the exquisite beauty and calm of nature, missing the gifts of its silence and gentle sounds. I think we should resist! The 21st century doesn’t have to mean that we stuff our ears, close our windows, and lose our sensitivity to noise and nature.
Sunday worship may seem old-fashioned or passe to some, but what if going to church on Sunday morning is a radical act of resistance? With its beautiful music, beloved community, deep reflection, a commitment to social justice, religious exploration, meditation, prayer, gathered hope, inspiration, and the joyful sound of laughter and children and friends as opposed to simply tolerating the unwelcome noise that insists on invading and poisoning our lives.
Resist! Renew your commitment to making life meaningful, joyful, and fun. See you in church!
Rev. Cathy Harrington, Interim Lead Minister