Until this week I had never heard the lyrical phrase in the title of this post. “Induced meandering” is a term from rainwater management that refers to strategies that slow down the flow of water so that more of it can be absorbed into the earth, and I learned it from an article shared on Facebook by my friend Amy Bogard.
“Whenever you can encourage rainwater runoff to slow down, to take a more circuitous route, to wind its way down a hill rather than rush full speed toward the gutter, storm drain, or gully below, you increase the likelihood for induced meandering — and the likelihood that this runoff can become a resource rather than a nuisance.
When runoff slows down, it sinks in as it flows down slope. As the water sinks in, it irrigates plants. This not only provides water for those particular plants but, over time and given enough precipitation, refills the groundwater tables below, contributing to the overall health of the surrounding region.”
By analogy the writer, Erin Dunigan, suggests that just as rocks and dirt installations can slow water in a constructive way, our Lenten practices serve the same purpose for our lives. “More than giving up or self-denial, Lent, when practiced intentionally, can allow time for self-examination, reflection, and preparation. It’s a time of slowing down, intentionally, so that life is given a chance to sink in, not just run off in so many directions,” she said.
The visual image of rain runoff is particularly vivid to me as our very large backyard is a watercourse; during major downpours, water fills nearly its entire width, a fast flowing current diagonally across from the southwest corner to the northeast, into our neighbor’s yard and on into a creek system. Personal contact with the physical reality perhaps accounts for the strong resonance I find with this symbolic meaning for Lent, which seems a gentler, more nurturing way of approaching it.
My personal Lent began very unusually. On Mardi Gras, I attended a wonderful presentation by former Sen. Olympia Snowe, so I wasn’t home to enjoy our traditional waffle dinner followed by burning palm to create ashes. Then yesterday I couldn’t even attend an Ash Wednesday service because of an elected officials training workshop that had been postponed from February due to snow. On the flip side, I typically obsess and worry over what to “do” for Lent and find it difficult to relate to the prayer-fasting-almsgiving triad, but earlier this week, out of a clear blue several ideas came to me that seemed just right.
Prayer: Since the new year, I’ve been reading Jan Richardson’s In the Sanctuary of Women, and the present chapter on the desert mothers and lectio divina invites me to engage a scripture-based practice. My forays into Judaism have led to a focus on the Torah over the Gospels, so Lent seems like a good time to spend some time with Jesus. I’m reading Matthew’s Gospel with no particular goal or pace in mind, just noticing what I notice.
Fasting: My teenage son rolled his eyes when I announced that Joe and I have agreed to give up wine during the week for Lent. I know it sounds like such a partial (wimpy) gesture — a “real” sacrifice would be to give it up for the entire season — but I wanted to choose something realistically do-able. And I will miss!
Almsgiving: I must admit that the Rice Bowl approach just has never worked for me. We give funds to charity in other ways, so it wasn’t meaningful. Thinking about it differently, lately I have been aware how often I fall down the social media rabbit hole in the evening hours, and I end up going to bed too late with my mind in overdrive. So considering my time to be alms, I’ve resolved to skip computer time after dinner.
These are the rocks I’ve placed in the path of my days in hopes of meandering through Lent. We’ll see what sinks in!