Watching the light break through the forest leaves I follow my three-year-old son, Isaac. He stops, stoops down, and says, “I’m looking for mushrooms.” Alternating sounds float through the air: children’s laughter, insect and bird songs, and motorboats cruising on the lake that’s barely visible through the tree growth. Hoping not to stumble on the rocks, I keep my head down placing one foot carefully in front of the other. Sometimes it’s the color red, other times white, sometimes there are dots of color scattered on top of mushrooms. If I follow the lead of my children and watch where they point, I’ll see the mushrooms with them.
“Look, look,” Isaac yells while he grabs a stick and moves the leaves away from the mushroom. We all come close and squat next to one another gazing at the mushroom in front of us. If we keep looking at the ground, we know we’ll find more, a whole world at our fingertips, inviting us to stop and notice the beauty underneath our feet.
Hunting for mushrooms feels like the perfect activity in a pandemic (or maybe anytime!) It gives me a task to focus on, one thing at a time. It allows me to adjust my eyes to the colors and shapes of the forest. It reminds me to keep my eyes open to the unexpected shapes, and to be surprised by what’s only visible if I take a moment to stop and look.
Right now, for me, many days it’s hard to focus on one thing (other than worry and fear), I’m stuck in the cycle of uncertainty around school this year and what the future will bring. But maybe for you, you’re worn out from working in health care or preparing to go back to school. Or maybe you are struggling after losing a job. Perhaps you’re missing family and friends, or long to return to worshipping in community. Maybe you’re just tired.
When I take the time to look for mushrooms I am reminded that underneath everything there are glimmers of beauty, surprise, and hope. I see it in my children’s eyes and hear it with their glee, “Look, look, a mushroom!”
There is goodness to be found in every day. God invites us to stop and listen, to take a deep breath, to trust that we are not alone. In our walking, taking one step after another, we catch glimpses of hope – the gentle breeze, the sun’s warmth, light breaking through, a star-filled sky, birds chirping, mushrooms, the hand of a neighbor reaching out to us. Signs of God’s presence in our midst. Keep walking forward with eyes wide open and be surprised.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website, follow her work on Facebook, or sign up for her monthly newsletter.