Finding consolation in desolation

The Faith Connections Hike and Prayer on November 9, 2013 looked at the desolation and the consolation that we can find in the environment: desolation in the contamination of nature and consolation in the beauty. The hike took us through a cemetery and then onto the Beltline Trail to the Evergreen Brick Works. What struck me throughout the hike was how we can find moments of consolation among the desolation.

Our first stop for prayer was in the cemetery, in a large memorial plaza. While we were there family and friends had gathered in mourning for a loved one and bagpipes lamented somewhere nearby. The sky was gray, the ground was strewn with autumn leaves and plants had curled up for the winter. The sombre setting made me acutely aware of the fact that there are many people in my life that I miss; some who had passed away and others who are living in different parts of the country. In my sadness and desolation I was tempted to turn inwards, shutting out the people around me.

As we moved on from the cemetery, a friend walked with me, peppering me with questions and not settling for one-word answers. We walked slowly, lagging behind the group, but as we walked I had the time to watch the world. I had the time to really examine the natural desolation that comes in autumn: the leaves falling, the plants turning grey-green, the cool wind. In examining it closely, I found the consolation: things that were unique and asked me to look at the world. I noticed tombstones at the edge of the cemetery that were made out of rocks and seemed to be randomly laid out along the path. As we walked along the ravine, I walked through piles of leaves, taking satisfaction in the crunching sound they made. Even walking along the muddy parts of the path provided a consolation, as the squishy, slippery sensation reminded me of childhood days spent playing on my grandparents’ farm.

Desolation can overwhelm and debilitate me with sadness and inferiority. It causes me to turn inwards and shut out people and my surroundings. But when I examine the desolation by letting people in and being attentive to the world, I can find those flashes of consolation in the most unexpected places.

— by Lauren van Vliet