last friday i walked into the cathedral known as the basilica of st. lawrence in downtown asheville ready to spend an hour or so in quiet. it was the first day i had been there all week. and, while, i had not been in the physical building monday – thursday, i know that i had been taking some time to meditate.

you see, my brother got a new dog last week. and then he remembered that he had workshops out of town everyday and would be leaving home really early in the morning and returning quite late at night. so, he enlisted my help during the day to take the dog out and spend some time with him. of course, i did not hesitate to do this… because, what would be a more fun excuse to take long walks during a beautiful and warm spring week than to walk a cute dog?

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so, church for me last week was outside, in the urban oasis of the five points neighborhood in downtown asheville. i walked with gunni (the sweet new family member) through the neighborhood, taking a different route each day. we took some drives together, and even found ourselves at a park by the french broad river one day. gunny rode with me to pick up lina a couple of times, and he curled up beside me on the sofa to nap, a few other times.

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while i walked and talked with him, i also stopped and soaked in the beautiful changing of the seasons happening all around me. i thought of all of you that are on my list, and i meditated with my footsteps.

but, on friday, i found myself in the cathedral. only i was not alone. in fact, there was a service going on when i walked in. so, i took a seat in the back and settled in to observe and perhaps participate. soon i realized that this was not just any service, it was a memorial service for a member of the congregation. i wondered if it was weird for me to stay, but i decided that it wasn’t. i decided that i could stay and honor this woman’s life, while at the same time, celebrating the joy of being alive.

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i did participate in the service, standing when the congregation stood, and sitting when they sat. i also decided to sing along, especially since the hymns were familiar ones from my childhood. in fact, the very last one, “how great thou art”, was incredibly touching. it was my late grandfather’s favorite hymn – and my granddad is the man who inspired me most through out my life, though he died when i was only 11.

the service lasted an hour, and at the end, as everyone began processing out, i felt full of life. full of gratitude. and a complete connectedness to myself and to the divine presence that connects us all.

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so, from celebrating new life appearing in my natural surroundings on long walks for most of the week, to celebrating and remembering the life of one specific woman who i never met, i felt the simply joy of being alive; of knowing that, though life is fleeting, we have the choice to decide how we want to spend our days.

i was blessed last week to live my moments in solitude and in the presence of amazing people, including my family. but, on top of that, i had the joy of remembering that slowing down and connecting to the presence that is within me, means that i am also connecting with you.

i think i’ll leave you with some of the lyrics from the hymn i mentioned above. if you don’t use the word “god” in your life, simply think of the presence of whatever you do believe in – or not. still, i personally cannot deny the existence of some being/presence/connection that unites us all – to each other & to the world around us. i don’t use the word “god” all of the time, but the lyricist’s expression of gratitude for the world and the beauty and grandeur of life, is what touched me. the words are poetic, and a perfect summary of my week in a cathedral: the basilica and nature.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

namaste