"His attitude towards creation was simple and direct, as simple as the gaze of a dove; as he considered the universe, in his pure, spiritual vision, he referred every created thing to the Creator of all. He saw God in everything, and loved and praised him in all creation. By God's generosity and goodness, he possessed God in everything and everything in God. The realization that everything comes from the same source made him call all created things -- no matter how insignificant -- his brothers and sisters, because they had the same origins as he."
--Minor Life of St. Francis
The Franciscan spirituality which I am following is connected with God, Man and Nature. Nature was a inseparable reality in Francis’ spirituality. And it was the intention of three of us as we reached the beautiful Red River Gorge at Lexington to be with the nature and taste the experience Francis had in the nature. We choose to tent near a stream which was a beautiful spot surrounded by woods. It was about 3.5 miles to reach to the spot and the luggage was really heavy so we were very tired. I rested on a fallen tree; I never knew I could sleep so well on a little curved trunk. Brother wood was very careful not push me down; I could feel his tight hug. I think I slept more than two hours hearing the lullaby of the stream enjoying the hug of the wood. The sun was moving to India to give my message to my brothers.
As we waked up we tried to make a camp fire but the brother fire was not so kind to us may be the place was so wet of previous day’s romance of earth and rain. I remembered of Francis’ eye surgery and he asking brother fire to be kind to him and it does so. I shared the story with the brothers. Dinner was chicken vegetables; we said the evening prayer before the dinner, the nature, animate and inanimate creatures were praying with us. The food was tasty and ate with haste within couple of minutes. I slept very tight that night hearing the praising of crickets. I remember “One time during the summer blessed Francis stayed in the cell next to the hedge of the gardener behind the house. It happened that one day, as he came down from that little cell, there was a cricket within on the branch of the fig tree next to that cell, and he could touch it. Stretching out his hand, he said: "Sister Cricket, come to me." The cricket immediately climbed onto the fingers of his hand, and with a finger of his other hand, he because to touch it, saying: "Sing, my Sister Cricket." It obeyed him at once and began to chirp. This consoled blessed Francis greatly and he praised God. He held it in his and that way for more than an hour. Afterwards he put it back on the branch of the fig tree from which he had taken it.
And in the same way, for eight days constantly, when he came down from the cell, he found it in the same place. And daily he would take it in his hand, and as soon as he told it to sing, touching it, i, it sang. After eight days, he said to his companions: "Let us give permission to our sister cricket to go where she wants. She had consoled us enough; and the flesh might vainglory form this." As soon as it had received permission, the cricket went away never appeared there again. His companions admired how obedient and tame she was to him”. (Flowers of the Three Companions)
The morning was not usual. It was very different lifestyle, no toilet no water tub, no shower everything is natural and I realized why a natural call is “natural call”. After morning prayers and breakfast we got ready for hiking. It was 12 miles walk through the forest. It was not as easy as I thought; my mind was giving up many times but I was asking my mind to be courageous. Lunch was on walking- a crunchy peanut biscuit and we reached the so called red river. I thought it will be a large river; but it was not so. We jumped in to the red river and cooled off.
The journey began again to return to the tent, I was slowing down. Some deers were watching us on the way and few beautiful birds too. They may be excited to see the Franciscans. I remembered the story of the companions of Francis: “Father Francis and his companions were making a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke. But they moved not.
Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He said to them: “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”
At this the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.
Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way”.
Just after the morning prayers and breakfast we started our journey to the canoeing and kayaking spot. It was a unique experience of 8 miles canoeing and kayaking. The nature scenes were really breathtaking and fabulous. Varieties of birds, fishes and even a turkey were on our way. I remembered Heraclitus who said "You cannot step twice into the same stream”; his famous doctrine about change.
The stream is good actor: sometimes act like a sanyasi: very calm and quite; another time, a rowdy very rough and tough; sometimes laughs like a mad women; sometimes very gentle, I loved the journey. I love the movie Brother Sun and Sister moon very much and in the movie, It is a shore of a brook that Francis and companions bathed the lepers and served them. It was stream side Francis cut the beautiful golden hair of Clare. We stopped in two places to cool ourselves. When we reached back to our tent we expressed our physical tiredness of being on hot sun and long journey in spite of all tiredness, we were happy that we could return the next day to see our friars.
Celebrating holy Mass surrounded by Mother Nature was another beautiful event of the next day. I am sure that Francis and the whole nature was with us for the celebration. We thanked god for all these beautiful days with nature and we three in same voice said it was an amazing experience. After the mass we bid good bye to the Red River Gorgeous for an interval.