It was a cool February day and we were free, so my wife and I drove to Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile, Alabama, and strolled the grounds for two leisurely hours. Carol called it an artist date. That is what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, recommends we give ourselves regularly to stimulate our inner artist. Apparently there is something healing and nourishing about spending time swimming through beauty alone, or together. And generally what arises next is the urge to be creative ourselves.
We passed through the barren rose garden, which still had a beautiful fountain flowing and the deep blue sky reflecting in it. We entered the greenhouse and wandered among luscious flowers and plants, like a giant and beautiful yellow hibiscus with a deep red center. The Source of Creativity must have a blast designing the next expression of her beautiful radiance.
Then Carol took my arm to glide along the sides of the Great Lawn, as the first pink azaleas peeked out and the last multi-colored camellias finished their winter dance. The shorn winter grass invited us to stretch our bodies out in the sun, and so we rested beside each other in silence.
There it hit me how lucky, or blessed, we are to be free to spend 120 of the 1440 minutes of a day on such an artist date, settling into a state of simple being beside gorgeous tulips.
That was a week ago today. That was then, and this is now. That was a particular gate of heaven designed and cultivated by numerous gardeners and landscape artists for decades. But I am not there today. I live in a still rebuilding city with streets that are more often potholes than pavement. So what is my response to the yearning to be with the Creator again today, in this wild and sometimes dangerous place?
After working on several church assignments, even though it is a Saturday, I remembered to stop doing anything. I remembered to be, for 40 of the 1440 minutes I have been freely given today. By grace, I was blessed with the freedom to stroll alone through an inner garden of stillness. There were no sights, no sounds, no azaleas or camellias or hibiscus. But there were also no bombs dropping around me, no disasters, and no good reason to resist the inner tug to drop down below normal consciousness to the center of my being where She Who Loves Me is.
Today I was lucky, or blessed, and I am so grateful for those 40 minutes. Got 40 minutes of your 1440 minutes you have been handed today?
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.