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Laurel Pattenden, Birch bark (detail)

By Laurel Pattenden

The Christmas of 2018, I gifted myself a poetry book called “a Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year” (ed. by Jane McMorland Hunter). What attracted me to this book was the colourful cover not necessarily the poems inside.

However, the book did provide a wide range of poets and poems. The book provided a daily poem for the appropriate month and season. It granted structure and routine at the breakfast table.

I faithfully read the assigned poem daily and only missed a few along the way. So by the year’s end I will have read more than three hundred nature poems. So I began to think about what to do for the 2020.

In the meantime, while finishing the poetry book, I read “The Reading Life” by C.S. Lewis. I was amazed at how much he read but more so by how much he re-read. Lewis would read and re-read multiple times his favourite books. Not just once or twice but maybe ten or more times in order to truly know the book. Incredible really.

Many of us may re-read some books but not that often. We prefer to “get through” our piles. Just to create a new pile of books. We like to see some progress in the number of bestsellers we can comment on. We don’t like to waste time beginning a book again for a re-read. In a way it takes humility to begin a book again. It’s like admitting to ourselves we didn’t get it all the first time through.

I believe it was St. Benedict who wrote “Always we begin again” in life. These words, I believe, are not words of frustration like one step forward and two back, but about beginning again in positive anticipation. Like Lewis encouraging us to go further and further into a book and author by re-reading.

Our spiritual journey with Christ is like Benedict’s “always we begin again” and Lewis‘ “re-reading”. The journey ebbs and flows and many times we forget what started us on this spiritual path in the first place. We can certainly get lost and lose our sight. It isn’t about reaching some “goal”, it’s all about being with God. We are allowed to begin again. Perhaps pause for a re-read.

As written previously, it takes humility to begin again. To realize that we didn’t get it all the first time around. Humility to know it may take many “agains” for each of us as we live through our years.

We don’t lose anything by beginning again. God is with us as much in our beginnings as He is with us anywhere else we might be. No matter how many beginnings we may have Divine love is always present.

All our beginnings are different just as we begin again “another January”. January is a natural month for beginning again. A good time to re-read. This January I will begin again the same poetry book I will have just finished.

This January I will begin again to learn about a life free in Christ. This January we can re-read our story and find it new. This January we can begin again and again to feel the grace we have received over and over.

Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.