“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s.” And what is God’s? Not a part of who we are and what we have, but our entire life, our whole mind, body, soul. A highly signifiant and enjoyable way to give ourselves back to God is to let go of busyness and take time to walk in God’s creation. As one walks on trails, paths, or even sidewalks, one is a creature among creatures, dwarfed by majestic trees displaying colors as they prepare for winter’s chill. What good would it do to give God some money or even some of our talents, but withhold our entire mind and heart—who we are? Essential to giving back to God is to give thanks, to be appreciative of His creative beauty as well as His love in giving us Christ. Enjoying beauty lifts us up and presents us to God presenting Himself to us through nature’s beauty.
Moses and I have been take walks almost daily to see and to absorb something of creation’s beauty. Enjoying beauty is a self-transcendent activity. Nearly always I carry my camera, photograph, make a few needed adjustments, and then post some of these images on our parish website, www.beltcatholic.com. Photography is a labor of love, and a fruit of walking and meditating on what we see, hear, smell, touch. (Moses, too, is busy taking in sights and smells, and responding to the p-mail he reads.) Walking itself can be a form of meditation, if we seek to be open to reality as it presents itself, and let the truth and beauty of reality break into consciousness, freeing us from excessive self-preoccupation. If we walk and merely daydream or allow our worries to flood us, we lose the meditative benefit of walking. And although any form of production—even one’s art—can become less than loving openness to reality, I have found that the act of concentrating my mind to photograph, to “do my art,” makes me more attentive to the world beyond me, not less so. Whatever lifts up our attention from our self-contained, self-constrained worlds is good and refreshing. Walking with an open mind is a loving form of prayer in the true sense.
Hence, in walking and photographing, I experience the truth of the Psalmist’s words: “He refreshes my soul.” We cannot perfect ourselves, renew ourselves, refresh ourselves. Openness to divine Presence alone can bring us peace, joy, refreshment of spirit. Each of us needs to climb out of our little worlds, our usual routines, and walk outside with grateful hearts.