I have lived my life in the countryside, in rural Tyrone. There is no bus service, no shop within walking distance, no street lights, no pub within walking distance! In winter, travel can be particularly difficult, given that the road on which I live is not treated. All these drawbacks may not sound very attractive to urban-dwellers!
Travelling 30 miles to work, I am in the car quite a bit each day. I could say that I see the world through a windscreen, while distracted by the radio or talking handsfree on the phone. Seeing my neighbours usually means waving as I meet them travelling in the opposite direction.
In the past year, during lockdown, I have walked quite a bit, mainly on the local roads which I normally travel by car. The walking makes me realise that, while I know every twist, turn and bump on the local roads, seeing the locality through a windscreen fails to facilitate any real awareness or appreciation of the wonders of nature and the beauty of God’s creation. It is only when walking that I realise how much I miss out on when seeing my townland through a screen. We spend much of our time now looking through screens – windscreens, computer screens, phones, tv, etc. Even in rural Tyrone, we can catch up on our ‘instant world’ just by scrolling a finger.
While each season holds its unique beauty, when walking these days I love to watch the little lambs in the field, some bleating as they search for their mummy whom they’ve ‘lost’, others wagging their tails as they contentedly feed off their mother. I watch the delight of the animals who have been housed for the winter jumping with joy as they enjoy their new-found freedom. I am in awe of the purity of the ‘greenness’ of the grass, that has suddenly come to life. I smile at the daisies, dandelions, primroses, bluebells and even the whins, at how they bring life to otherwise insignificant places, at how they are not afraid to grow on the roadside. I hear the birds chirping merrily in the trees and watch as they fly so carefree through the air. The country smells remind me of walking to and from school and even the farmyard scents bring back happy memories of childhood days! I even ‘see’ the sky! I get to say hello to neighbours outside their houses.
Walking is also my new-found prayer time! I often place my prayer in the hands of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux who, as we know, loved God’s creation, nature and simplicity of life. Thérèse, who did not see the beauty through a screen, said that all creation became a medium for experiencing God and that nature reminded her of what really mattered – to give glory to the Creator of all. Let us praise God for creation and all things beautiful!
Saint Thérèse of the Little Flower, pray for us.
Teresa McMenamin is Administrative and Financial Secretary, Diocese of Derry