But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being. (Job 12:7-10, NRSV)
Family walks have become a tradition for us. We love to get outdoors and soak up the fresh air, gazing on the beauty of God’s creation all around. During the school year, we find time on the weekend for this beloved tradition. We have our favorite spots, including several nature parks and trail venues. Still, there is always the neighborhood lake.
Just a couple blocks from us, we venture to the lake probably once a week. Sundays in particular have become a time for our lake walk. I enjoy my down time on Sunday–when I generally set aside coursework, publications, and conference prep–and a visit to the lake requires little effort, save throwing on some outdoor clothes. I can wake up from a Sunday afternoon snooze, grab the wife and kids, head out the door and there it is. . .
The lake is a ripe habitat for a host of different birds and sea creatures. My son, Joseph, has become our little orthnologist. We love counting the various bird species–seagulls, egrets, bald eagles, harens, mallard ducks, geese, pelicans, blue birds, turkey vultures, and the like. One Sunday, Joseph tallied off about fifteen different species he’d identified that day! The girls and I love running together in the open field at the lakefront. Over the years, they have gained on their dad in speed and I imagine it won’t be long before they can challenge me in the 40-meter dash. By the afternoon’s end, my wife and I make sure we have met our 30-minute cardio quotient with a stroll along the neighbordhood sidewalks.
We do the lake-walk almost every week. In this sense, it has become a part of our ordinary routine. Yet, it never becomes dull or stagnant. It’s the same place each time, nevertheless, this ordinary affair is extraordinary because it is something we do together. There is a certain longevity to such traditions that measures solidarity, and even faithfulness to one another and the beauty of God. Moreover, there are the subtle variations that enrich the experience, making fresh encounters each time. My son and I might identify a new bird species or nesting site. The girls and I will often cloud-gaze, perceiving new patterns and shapes each day. For the cardio portion, we might pick a different path to trod through the neighborhood streets.
And so, the lake has become a tradition, embodying the ordinary alongside the extraordinary. Every visit to the lake together is enriched with new and subtle shifts which give us a fresh taste of the beauty of creation all around. Together, we have embraced this tradition and find rejuvenation with each visit.
We can find the extraordinary in our regular faith and family traditions if we open our horizons just enough. The light of God’s love and wonder is waiting to enchant us when we venture the path of the ordinary with our hearts and minds wide open.