The Paths We Travel

Aerial shot Netherlands

from website of Nederland van Boven

As some of you know I spent a month with my mom in the Netherlands. As a general rule, mom’s television habits mainly include sports (and I use that term loosely, since besides soccer, speed skating, and tennis, she also religiously follows snooker, darts and other such recreational activities). But on occasion I could take control of the tv-clicker, and I found one of my favorite shows: Nederland van Boven (Netherlands from Above). It is a show that looks at habits of people by examining activities as seen from aerial shots. It is in Dutch, but the visuals are stunning (see

So why am I telling you about this? One of the episodes that struck me was bout wildlife in Holland. And one of the things they showed in that episode was the path that deer travel on a daily basis using gps. The deer would hide out in the forest during the day, staying pretty much in one location, away from people. At dusk, the animal would head to the nearest clearing and during the night would graze in the open grassland and wander about, only to sprint back to the forest at dawn. It would show this same pattern day after day.  I was surprise by the routine and the limited in range of such a wild animal.

The next day, I walked to the grocery store to get some basics for dinner and reflected on the pattern of movement of the deer and how my elderly mom is also limited in her pattern of movement. At 88, she shuffles around her apartment, daily head downstairs using her walker to get the mail, and perhaps take out a little baggy of trash and recyclables. Perhaps every other day (when I am not there to run the errands), she will get on her scoot-mobile and head out to get groceries, or into town to run an errand, after which she heads home for a nap.  Her pattern is routine, and limited by age, her energy level and mobility. And I thought to myself, isn’t it great that I am not so constrained.

Perhaps I am not as constrained by age or lack of mobility, but I am constrained by habit and routine. I get up, putter around the apartment, get in the car, drive to work, walk around campus, drive to the grocery store and to run errands, drive home … and every day is very similar.  On rare occasions I may head out of town to visit my sister, or to go to Boston or Manchester for a meeting… but generally, my pattern is just like the deer in the woods, or my mom.  What would your pattern look like from the air?  Do you track the same paths day after day? Dorm to class to Student Center, Dining Commons, back to the dorm, class, quick errand off campus and back to the dorm, out with friends …etc.

Copyright by Moyan Brenn

And what about our spiritual journeys?  Do you have a pattern there?  Perhaps a schedule of prayer or reflection.  Do you stop during the day to reflect on how God is with you always?  Or perhaps when you walk by the church, do you silently nod hello to Jesus in the tabernacle or cross yourself?  Or perhaps, you have a devotion like praying the Rosary, or reading scripture, or even just saying grace before meals or praying when you hear the siren of a fire engine or ambulance? Or perhaps, you only think about God on Sunday mornings…  What does your spiritual path look like?  Is it a well-worn path?  Is there someone who walks the path with you? Is there unexplored territory that you would like to seek out?

Just something to think about as we start a new semester in a new year….


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