Even the most broken places of our world – and our souls – can be restored with willingness, community, and time.

Since moving to Vallejo one of my favorite places to walk is only a few minutes drive from our house.

I like to call it “the meadows” as it reminds me somewhat of the meadows that I used to visit as a boy in Andover, Massachusetts.

Where they differ is that “the meadows” in Napa is a reclamation project. Not so long ago this was the site of both salt production and the municipal dump.

In order to produce the salt the wetlands were drained, filled in, and a levee system created that allowed for water to be drawn off from the San Pablo Bay into ponds where it was allowed to evaporate and the salt harvested. As the municipal dump not only did it receive the garbage collected from nearby communities but people felt at liberty to throw any and everything into the marshes, including automobiles and appliances.

Beginning in the 1990’s this area was earmarked to be restored to a “normal” habitat and the marshes and wetlands were intentionally allowed to heal and be restored.

Some of this restoration, like in so many other similar projects, required assistance from engineers and environmentalists.

Some of this healing of the watershed occurred by allowing nature to undertake its own healing process by just being nature. In the end the healing has resulted in a series of ponds and marshlands running alongside the Napa River with views of the Sonoma and Napa hills, with countless species of birds darting through the reeds and tall grasses and glorious swans gliding over the ponds.

While walking the other day and again celebrating the healing that has occurred on this once damaged and broken piece of God’s green earth, I began to reflect on the parallels between the ability of the earth to heal when given the right help and the ability of the human spirit and body to heal given the right conditions and help.

Over the past 25 years as an Episcopal pastor I have had the opportunity to hear the stories of people who have taken me into their confidence. And over those years while I have been invited to celebrate the joys of life I have also been invited to walk with folks into their brokenness, shadows and deep traumas.

On many many occasions I have found myself in tears at the pain people have had to endure and carry through their journey of life.

But, as I would walk with individuals, sometime only for an hour and at other times for years, I would eventually find myself marveling at the ability of this individual to commit to healing and allow the broken pieces of life to be re-constructed, re-created, restored.

Despite the horror of life that tore apart the fabric of life these individuals had found the means and will to reclaim life and braid threads back together.

In my experience that healing has required two pieces: an “engineer” and “environmentalist” who come alongside and help by listening and creating space for the process of healing to happen, and a willingness on the part of the individual to allow their true self to, in a sense, take over and reclaim life.

Over the years I have come to understand that some experiences are almost too much and too hard to heal. I have learned that we each heal in different ways and in our own time.

But, that said, I have come to believe that we humans, like our counterpart in nature, when given the help of mentors and friends we need and, at the same time, act as our own agent we will engage in a process of healing, of being re-constructed, re-created, restored. Braided together, again.

Not that we don’t carry some scarring of barbed wire or the traces of pollutants in our souls and bodies. However, we find life anew and move forward into a new song allowing majestic swans to glide on the restored pools of water of our soul.

It really is miraculous.

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