It is hard to imagine that in a few months’ time the earth will awaken from its wintry slumber. Though we have not experienced much of the season’s bite in the forms of snow and ice, we have felt shivers brought on by the cold air and bristling wind as it has swept across our faces. This was particularly true for me and 47 other young adults as we gathered along the Potomac River in Westmoreland State Park this past weekend for the annual Winter Escape. There, amid the 30-degree weather and barren land where only a few dandelions popped with color, Unitarian Universalists from across the DMV convened in hopes of connecting with new and old friends alike while engaging in shared spiritual practices.
On Saturday, after making my morning cup of coffee, I slipped out of the main lodge and placed myself beside the river for a few seconds of ease before the hustle of the day began. As I relaxed and took a few deep breaths, my eyes fell softly upon one of those dandelions. In that moment my mind began to recall the various horticultural fun-facts I knew about the weed-like herb – like how it can rest in germination for upward of 9 years and how its taproot system twists and tangles deep into the earth, preventing it from easily being uprooted by either human or environmental forces.
At the heart of our spiritual lives rests the deep desire to connect, for clasping onto, if even for a moment, a thread of the Eternal and for experiencing the synergy that resonates among all creation. Here we find the bedrock for an understanding of religion, of faith, as one that is rooted in humanity as it is given shape by and exists within the unfolding of creation. It is one that allows us to define faith as a way of understanding, relating to and being in relationship with the vast and wonderful cosmos of which we are a part.
Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley speaks of this by saying that for her, faith “is gaining confidence through relating to others that there is [a] sustaining grace in the universe, a power beyond ourselves that holds us … and that we experience this power through our relationships with others and they with us. In other words, faith is relational.”
In this relationship of mutuality, we tap into the depth of the Eternal as it feeds and sustains us. It is a persistence, a resiliency, that allows us, much like a dandelion, to root ourselves in the most unexpected of places and to grow evermore toward the source of hope. And when outward forces foolishly seek to remove us or seemingly cut us down, we grow back in force.
This past weekend was an invitation of sorts as it reminded me once more that there is still hope to be found within Unitarian Universalism and the world. In the practices of our faith, in the practices of our pulsating communities as we gather to welcome new people, prepare shared meals for one another, hike along well-worn paths and engage in deep conversations around past harms with the hopes of bright futures, we can find ourselves rooted, grounded this day and in all the days ahead. For when we are planted like the resilient dandelion, one of our only tasks is to grow evermore toward hope.