When Doves Coo

So that God may be all in all. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:28

I got lost in an old neighborhood in south Las Cruces, New Mexico, while looking for the Holy Cross Retreat Center where I planned to spend four nights and days in silence and solitude. My GPS map in the car was doing circles, and so was I. I passed several small adobe homes with dirt yards and statues of the Virgin Mary or St. Francis of Assisi with birds alighted on his shoulders. The streets were empty, but I figured I’d run into a sign literally sooner or later.

I passed a diminutive, old Spanish woman carrying a loaf of bread. I turned my car around and pulled up next to her but on the opposite side of the street. I did not want to alarm her. I rolled down my window and asked, “Do you know where the Holy Cross Retreat Center is?”

The wrinkled woman turned around and pointed with her index finger. “Go that way and when you hit the highway turn left. You’ll see a sign down the road a bit for the Center.” “Thank you,” I said, and the lady nodded at me and turned back around to continue her walk home.

Her directions led me directly to Holy Cross Road where an unobtrusive little white sign with black lettering said, “Holy Cross Retreat Center.” The road passed through immaculate pecan orchards to a dead end, and another small sign pointing towards weathered white adobe buildings nestled within more pecan orchards.

I found the office and Margaret, the receptionist smiled and asked, “Are you Craig?” “Yes,” I said. A black cat was sleeping on a chair with his front leg draped around a yellow-white cat. “They must be buddies,” I said.  “Yeah, I don’t really like cats, but I can’t help but love them.” “How did you know I was Craig by the way?” “You’re the only one checking in today, so I was expecting you.”

Margaret gave me a key and directions to the hermitage. “Enjoy,” she said.

I put my bag in the casita and took off for a walk in the orchards. The late afternoon sun was dropping in the west and the unseen birds, doves I would guess, were singing soft melodic notes. “Coo, Coo, Coo.” “Coo, Coo, Coo.” Their “cooing” lifted my heart and saddened it at the same time.

In the middle of the orchard, five Mexican men sat and told stories after a day of hard work. They had been pruning the broken and dead branches from the trees. The debris was stacked neatly in rows up and down the pecan grove to be picked up on another day of work.

I waved at them, and they waved back. I wondered about their story, but thought it was better not to ask. Even though we did not speak, I will remember them the next time I eat a pecan.

I walked back to the hermitage and warmed up a pot of water. Previous guests had graciously left a variety of tea. I picked a package of raspberry herbal tea and settled into a rocking chair to watch the alpenglow over the Organ Mountains to the east.

Suddenly, a songbird flew from out of nowhere and hovered above the rock water fountain outside the sliding glass door. The bird was upright in mid-air as it fluttered its wings and appeared to be looking in at me sipping tea. I held my breath until the bird landed softly on the fountain for an evening drink of water.

Other birds, again I would guess doves, flew to the fountain and landed. I counted twelve to fifteen birds in the fountain or on the ground eating seeds, a heavenly feast for sure. They were at home, and I was a guest in their world.

“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place,” I said to myself. Sometimes when I experience beauty or wonder, I question its origin. Is this moment of God or is it just my imagination?

“Knowing God’s presence is simply a matter of awareness, of fully allowing, and enjoying the present moment. Then life makes sense,” writes Father Richard Rohr. “We cannot not live in the presence of God.”

Just as quickly as the birds arrived, they left; but the next moment appeared. The water fell softly, like a dove cooing, down the fountain.

Mechtild of Magdeburg said, “The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.” Paul writes simply in 1 Corinthians, “So that God may be all in all.”

How aware are we of God’s divine presence in our lives? Can we see the divine in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary? Rohr writes, “Any attempt by any religion to say God is here and not there is pure heresy.”

May we become more aware of the mystery of God in each moment of time and grow to see the Spirit’s grace in all things.

Blessings and peace,