Summer is my season. My spirits soar, I feel physically strong, and my love of nature is fueled by a world of blue and green: blue skies, blue lakes, green forests and fields, and gardens of flowers. It is also my season for exploring. I love to spend my summer hiking, biking, running, kayaking, canoeing, and traveling to connect with nature. I was born in July and it always feels like I am reborn every summer.
This summer I've had to approach it very differently. Multiple injuries are preventing me from walking, hiking, biking, and traveling. I've had to dig deep to find other ways to fuel my spirit. I’ve also had to adjust my identity.
Friends, neighbors and family would describe me as very “physically active”. All too many have said to me….you must be going crazy not being able to walk, hike, run and bike. Faced with this question, I’ve realized I need to let my core shine through more. I want people to know me as a woman of grace, kindness and resilience. My journey the last six months has been to find the words, actions and ways of being that is not physically active but more of a “soulfully active person”.
This discipline of self-reflection and personal resilience has been driven by a decision to make this my summer of grace. Grace has so many definitions but for this summer, three elements have been revealed.
1. Grace in Spirit- Grace in spirit is being gentle with myself and trusting that the unknown of multiple physical challenges does not mean I have a challenged spirit. Infact, it has been an opportunity to deepen my connection with my inner light.
2. Grace in Engagement- Kindness to others, generosity of time and conversation, and listening deeply are gifts I can offer to others during this time. My willingness to be open to deeper conversations has created a summer where my friends and I have had deeper connections. We have been more honest, more real, and more spirit led.
3. Grace in Reflection- Because of my limitations, I spend more time alone. I’ve always been comfortable by myself but this year while others are on vacation or off hiking and biking, I have learned to be still with myself. I’ve learned to savor this quiet as a time for reflection and finding grace from God, grace from life, and grace from all that touches me.
I remember one day recently when I was watering my butterfly garden at the quiet end of the day. I was splashing the faces of my flowers when a butterfly and hummingbird decided to play in the water spray. They flew in and out of the water and around my head as if I was part of the garden. I stood so still so they would play and refresh in the water and keep dancing around my body. As they started to wander further from the water, a friend drove up my driveway. I had a beaming smile on my face and said…”you won’t believe what just happened to me”. After telling the story, her response was…”they must know you are the one who’s created this beautiful garden”.
At that moment, I realized I had figured out how to fill my spirit this summer. By focusing on grace, I had created a garden where my soul could thrive.
I hope to walk, hike and travel again some day but what I hope most of all is that I will view myself as “grace active”, not just physically active. I hope that friends, family and colleagues will also see that I am truly grace active and grace centered.
About Polly Chandler:
Polly is the Chair of the Management Department for Antioch-NE Graduate School. "It is my honor to serve our students, faculty, staff and alumni. In this role I bring together my skills and experiences as an environmental educator, scientist, teacher, administrator, consultant, and systems thinker."
For more on Polly, click here.