This is my favorite place, and I wanted you to see it.
There is something about the first days of Summer when the light dawns so early and retires so late: you have a sense, especially if you are a child, that all the darkness has been conquered and there is only endless light.
In the first days of Summer all the rules are relaxed, the responsibilities lightened–you wear clothing that is comfortable, you eat food with your fingers, you let the water soothe your bones and the sun warm your skin without guilt. You can be more honest in the summer, let everything go hang. You take a vacation from where you are and live in the place you really believe in, where you’re hope is and your dreams, where you can imagine that anything is possible, most especially love.
On the first day of summer many years ago I was in Vermont. The sun was warm, the sky was blue. Carried in the gentle breeze across rolling meadows of an emerald valley, came the sounds of dogs barking and horses whinnying. School was out in Vermont, and I was babysitting my three nieces while their parents were away.
“Come with me,” she insisted, holding my hand,” I have something I want to show you”.
I looked at her for a moment, my niece Amanda, and thought: my, she’s growing up. There was a young woman waiting to emerge from that little girl’s body, baby fat evaporating into slender curves, high cheekbones, narrow face. But innocence was still there in her eyes, and bright wonder, and what was perhaps true belief. A child’s eyes undimmed by disappointment.
”Come on,” she said excitedly, eager for me to see something she believed in.
She led me down the hilly path that was overgrown with lush vines, shooting weeds, purple flocs, and wild red roses of a young, moist Vermont summer. Down we went, nearer and nearer to the sound of rushing, gurgling water.
Suddenly, from behind, the sound of leaves slapping, twigs snapping, and like a shot out of nowhere the dog bounded clumsily into our safari, nearly knocking us both over on the uneven ground. ”Oreo!”, cried Amanda, half in delight, half scolding, which of course, the dog completely ignored.
The sun sparkled on the brook’s moving waters, patches of light piercing the canopy of leaves hanging from branches over the baby river. With birds singing overhead, we walked along the bank over falling tree trunks, pushing aside green fences of vines. We reached a significant landmark, a series of smooth gray rocks in the water, a path from shore to shore. Amanda gave me careful instructions on how to negotiate the stepping stones, each one, and then we were there.
”This is our fort,” she said, looking for my approval. “Wow,” I said, and we began our tour.
It was mostly nature’s work: a fort of bare earth, with walls and ceiling composed of dense leaves from surrounding trees. On the ground--lining the sides of the “room”--were many small pieces of pottery and glass. They had been retrieved from the brook, Amanda informed me, her declaration proved upon closer look by their rounded edges and worn surfaces. How many years of flowing water had worn them smooth? At various spots in the room, carefully placed, were old bottles filled with wild flowers – buttercups, daisies, flocs. Other imported items composed the interior design: sitting stones, cups for drinking, a bed of straw for Oreo, and a small picture of mama, Amanda’s grandmother, my mother. When I saw that there, I got a lump in my throat.
”This is my favorite place, this is where we live in the summer,” Amanda said, “and I wanted you to see it.”
I could see that she was a little worried about my reaction: worried that I might not appreciate the place where she lived, that I might not accept it for what it meant to her. So I thanked her profusely for showing it to me, and complimented her on the interior decorating, and she beamed at my approval.
The wind came up and blew gently through the fort, making the leaves above flutter. ”It’s like they’re whispering to us,” she said, and we listened to the leaves whisper to us.
It was a summer place alright, and it was clear that this was where she lived, the place where she could believe and conceive her dreams. There was something holy about it, something holy about that fort. The place where you’re truly living out your deepest dreams and greatest love is always a holy place.
Which brings me to today’s message, the message to all of us at the beginning of summer, when days are long, and the sun is strong, when we go on vacation. In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples and friends to go out into the surrounding countryside and tell everyone they met about the holy summer place where they live, and where they have found their deepest dreams and greatest love fulfilled: in Him.
“What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” He assured them that even if what they shared was not appreciated, if the place where they live was rejected, they need not fear anything. ”Do not fear… everyone who knowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
So too with us. In the summer, probably more than any other time, we go on vacation and live in our favorite places, and in the best of them, God is there too. He is whispering to us especially then: under the fluttering green leaves of a brookside fort; in the crashing salty surf of the shore; in the backyard with the sweet scent of sausage on the grill; on the porch in the twilight, rocking gently beside the love of your life; at a concert rocking wildly to the rhythm of the night.
We go on vacation in the summertime, and God is especially with us then and there, and maybe it’s the best time to share with someone else the whispering in the place where you live. Take someone down to the brook and the fort, the holy place of your life, and fear not how they will react, because you are always surrounded by His love. Please God, please God, don’t be afraid to speak of the God who made the summer days long and warm and leisurely and beautiful, who made the brook and the flocs and the meadows and the trees, who made little girls and clumsy dogs, who made us all, who made you.
Praise Him, praise God. Amen