National Catholic Reporter
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Starting Point
Issue Date:  May 28, 2004

Starting Point


I took a walk yesterday. It was late afternoon and warm. I walked along a path that is close to one of the walls of the main building. I passed a tree and a bird flew out of it, darting back and forth just above me, squawking and obviously upset. I peeked in the branches of the tree and there was a nest and in the nest were baby birds. I immediately understood the panic felt by the bird and kept on walking.

I then noticed another bird making as much of a racket as the mother bird. I am sure it was the father. He was flying erratically all around the tree and did not calm down until I was a safe distance away.

I made my way down to a path that has a nice view of a small valley-like area. Usually a few deer are down there, but I did not see any yesterday. I heard birds and saw an occasional squirrel. A chipmunk crossed the path in front of me. The area is rich with all sorts of growth. There must be hundreds, maybe thousands, of species of trees, shrubs, grasses and weeds in that relatively small spot.

Insects buzzed around me. I am wary of the big bees that bore their homes in wood. Our old monastery building is a haven for them. There are bore-holes in all the old wood. I am especially careful when I walk past that old building.

A cat approached me, stopped and looked at me carefully, and then came to me and rubbed against my shoe and leg. He is a friendly cat. I see him every day. I always look forward to seeing him. He lives in our garage with another, less friendly cat. They have their spats but manage to coexist quite well.

Walking helps me leave my troubles behind. I do not have big troubles these days. But other big troubles get to me at times. Church troubles, war troubles, hungry people troubles, sick monk troubles. We all carry troubles and feel the troubles of others.

Walking is not so much about leaving them behind as it is trying to learn how to carry them better. I trust that there is something we can do about them, as far away as some of them may be.

Trappist Fr. James Stephen Behrens lives at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, May 28, 2004

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