Go out on the lake early in the morning, before the sun has quite cleared the trees, while the mist lays heavy over the water. Paddle gently, letting your canoe glide over the glassy surface. Bats appear and vanish into the fog, flying nimbly without the distraction of light. Slowly, the world fades from shadow into the emerging colors of dawn.

That’s when you hear them, hooting and chirping to each other. Loons have a lot to say when you’re still enough to listen. The nesting pairs, life-mates, talk about fishing and raising chicks. They flirt with each other as they dive, splash, and race. It’s equal parts showing off and sharing important skills.

Don’t go too close, or they get upset. They speed across the water to try and draw you away from the others. They dive away, to come up again in some other part of the lake. You can’t chase the loons, for they won’t be pursued.

But you can let them get close. You can move slowly, let yourself drift, and wait for them to find you. You can wait and watch, and sometimes they’ll pop up right next to the boat. Sometimes they’ll almost let you in on their conversations, just for a little while. And then they go on about their business.

The Celtic Christians had the same relationship with the wild goose, which migrated into and out of their world on its own schedule. The bird became for them a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which also comes into our lives on its own terms: “the wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going.” (John 3:8)

As it happens, we will celebrate Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit – just a week before the Land of the Loon festival this year. I’d hold out for them to actually coincide, but the western Christian calendar doesn’t let Pentecost fall that late. Of course, the real point is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t wait on our timetable. We schedule our festivals, and God is remarkably obliging all things considered, but we don’t ultimately decide when and how God arrives.

What we can do is be open, the way one would watch and listen for a wild goose or a secretive loon. We can sit, quietly and receptively, aware that we don’t ultimately control the events around us. We can relish the calm or soak in the activity and bustle. We can allow the Spirit to call through the mist, to speak our name in love, and to find a new way into our hearts and our lives.

Have a blessed summer.

In Christ’s peace,

Nathan

P.S. Many thanks for the two boxes of groceries I was able to share with one of our guests last month.

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