Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lake Superior in Advent

Lake Superior’s North Shore is a craggy, rugged land with only six inches of topsoil on some of the oldest rock exposed rock on earth. Over 90 % of the land is state and national forest. Two thousand square miles of land with an average population according to the latest census of 3.6 persons per mile. Towns are small. The town where I live boasts fewer than 200 residents.

It’s quiet up here, the predominant sound that of waves crashing against ledge rock, and the peregrine falcons and ring-billed gulls cruising above. It’s a place where you’d better love the out-of-doors because there is little indoor activity to distract you. TV reception is inaccessible unless you have satellite and that’s expensive. Night life focuses primarily on lodges and taverns, when they’re open, the occasional community theater production or visiting musical group.

Those who don’t live here wonder what we do with ourselves. There’s little industry save tourism. Mostly the area caters to tourists, artists, people wanting to escape city life. In warm weather we hike, pick berries, watch birds, canoe the boundary waters and challenge Lake Superior in kayaks. The lake is too cold for swimming. In winter we hunt, snow shoe, ski, run sled dogs, watch the night sky. Deer, wolves, bear and an occasional moose wander our woods.

It’s a perfect place for a monastery, here where God’s bounty is so clearly visible. Contemplative living should flow naturally in such a place, one would think, yet perfect places do not guarantee perfect lives. Always we lug ourselves around, not seeing clearly, not listening closely, always dependent on God’s love to rekindle the fires of yearning within us. Advent approaches, reminding us that the Incarnation was willed through eternity as an expression of God’s love for us.

In a beautiful meditation on Advent, Sallie Latkovich CSJ writes that in Advent we contemplate the three ways of Christ’s coming: in history, in our daily lives, and in the second coming.

“I’ve been thinking that we’ve got it all wrong,” she writes. “We need not wait for God. God is always present, always with us . . . this Advent I’ve come to see that it’s GOD who waits for us . . . [God who] waits for us to notice the myriad ways in which God is with us, always.”
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