As I walked the frozen south shore of Bark Lake on the Madawaska River today, as I do every late spring, the beautiful shoreline once again held me in awe, yet something was noticeably different. A new pervasive silence, an absence of something caught my attention. It took only a moment to realize what it was. No planes. Not once did I see, glistening in the sun, a jet with its snow-white tail crossing the wide, blue sky.
About three and a half hours from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, the lake sits under a flight path from Europe and other western countries. There’s always a plane in the sky. Except for today. It took a while to get adjusted as if planes are a normal, and somehow beautiful part of the scene.
The impact of the global coronavirus lockdown on a remote lake below Algonquin Park caught me off guard. Knowing its powerful worldwide penetration by the numbers, and through images of people affected everywhere even in a rural village where I live had its unique taste.
But staring at an expansive empty sky I’d never seen before made me aware of just how frail and vulnerable we are and how connected I am to my brothers and sisters all over the world who are suffering from Covid-19, the reason for the empty sky.
Having paddled this lake for decades, I remembered moments in my kayak holding the rosary with a book of psalms on the spray skirt watching a jet heading into the setting sun. I would think about those onboard in need, maybe someone whose loved one just died, someone worried, or someone who is lonely. I prayed for all.
Standing under a silent, blue sky now made me think about and pray for those all over the world suffering or dying from this disease, for the nurses and doctors who care for them as well.
My heart held a great affection for those in Italy. I was in Rome in 2016 for Mother Teresa’s canonization. It’s an incredible country filled with a sacred Catholic past. When I walked into St Peter’s square I felt like I’d come home. What remarkable people with hearts clothed in hospitality. How could I not be moved with profound sorrow at their suffering?
My return flight, then, took me across this same area in a sky just as blue. Looking out the tiny window I strained to see this lake I often paddled.
Today’s blue sky covered me with a new beauty that generations without planes long ago treasured. Yet, I felt a loss of something equally beautiful, neighbours from some distant land or Canadians returning home for whom my prayers while paddling a crystal lake brought them Christ’s healing touch.
You took me by the hand today, Lord, leading me to a clear, silent sky where deep, calm water once carried me under passing jets. Thank you for this time alone with you to pray for all who are suffering now. I know you are bringing something marvellous out of this. I know you are drawing us all toward your heart; you thirst for us. Help us to turn to you without fear. Write on our hearts the psalm for the fourth Sunday of Lent,
Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and Your staff comfort me.