A Summer of Numinous Moments


This morning the temperature dipped below 60 degrees Fahrenheit here in our mountain valley. As I write this at 3:00 in the afternoon, it’s 76 degrees. Outside my window, clusters of brown leaves are gliding to the ground on gentle breezes. Summer is nearing its end.

I’ve experienced occasions of profound joy, awe, and thankfulness every summer I’ve spent here in the past 18 years. Partly because this tree-shaded nest surrounded by densely forested mountains is such a welcome change from Florida’s glaring sun and intense heat. Partly because it’s a special place to share and enjoy with my family and friends. And partly because, for one who pays attention, aging brings greater awareness of approaching mortality which, in turn, brings greater gratitude for each moment one is able to enjoy the gift of life.

But it’s not just this place that accelerated my numinous moments this summer. We also took a once-in-a-lifetime vacation with our daughter and her husband, our son and his wife, and our grandchildren, three of whom will be headed for college within the next couple of years. Knowing this might be the last time we’ll all be together for a summer trip intensified my awareness of the gift of life too. Everywhere I looked I saw beauty in things I would never have noticed when I was younger.

In these moments of heightened self-awareness I feel like I’m in touch with my true Self and the Source of life. When I was younger, this usually only happened in church. Now it happens daily, especially when I experience a synchronicity, am outdoors in nature, or spend time with family or friends.

You all know by now that I’m no Bible thumper or verse quoter. Nor am I a fan of the masculine pronoun habitually applied to the Sacred Mystery. Moreover, as you will have read in my previous post, I definitely don’t believe the religion I grew up in is the only “correct” one. But when I can overlook my ego’s biases against humanity’s distortions of spiritual truths, I’m still comforted by the underlying truths conveyed by sacred scriptures. Especially Psalm 91, my favorite ever since Grandpa read it to me as a child.

Since then, the following lines with their references to nature, the “secret place of the most High,” abiding “under the shadow of the Almighty,” trust, truth, living without fear, and being kept by angels in the holy ways of goodness and love have held enormous appeal for me. Maybe they’ll appeal to you too if you listen with your heart and soul and not your head. For me, they speak to the core of every human longing and every authentic religion.

Psalm 91 King James Version 

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

Did these words and beliefs learned from organized religion at an early age activate my spiritual inclinations? Or do they simply come from being born a sensitive, introverted child with a subtle, natural awareness of the “religious function” (Jung’s term for the Self) within myself? Both, I think. Regardless, I’ve worked to connect with the Self through regular dreamwork for so long that this summer I’ve been seeing the sacred in almost everything.

The following pictures capture a few moments that stopped me in my tracks and filled me with appreciation for the miracle of life this summer. I hope you enjoy them. And the rest of your summer.

This gorgeous Chinese dogwood was one of our first sights when we arrived.

Can you see the tiny hummingbird? A few days ago I was sitting on the porch when one hovered within inches of my face long enough to bring tears of awe and joy.

Nature’s symmetry.

The Carolina wrens were busy this spring stuffing this bird house with nesting material!

Izzy chewing a stick in the moss garden by the creek.

Luscious homegrown raspberries.

Beauty from the summer garden.

A nighttime raid on our bird feeders by a hungry bear. It was definitely a religious experience that put the fear of God in me when Izzy awakened me with a ferocious bark at one in the morning and I found her staring intently out the window! When I texted this image captured by our motion detector camera to my family, I inadvertently drew in the black line beside the bear and don’t know how to erase it.

An Episcopal church in our mountain town. I love the shadow on the roof.

Our first taste of fresh sea urchin roe on bread dipped in EVOO and sprinkled with lemon juice.

Our son walking with his youngest son. Note how their steps are in synch.

The last dinner of our family vacation.

Note:  For those who are interested, Crucifixion Quake, the documentary I was asked to appear in  and was interviewed for last summer, is finished. Last week it was in its first film festival in Greece. The producer hasn’t received word of how it was received yet, but they have produced a trailer for it that you can watch at this link: https://vimeo.com/349143143.  You won’t see me in the trailer, but at times you’ll hear my voice. 

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

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12 Responses

  1. Your “voice over work” adds yet another talent to be discovered. Perhaps you should create a “Summer of 2019” slide show with music and narration! It would be a great Christmas gift for your grandchildren. Perhaps some original music from someone playing a ukulele? Love, Love, loved tonight’s blog, Jimmy B
    On Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:02 AM Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom wrote:
    > jeanraffa posted: “This morning the temperature dipped below 60 degrees > Fahrenheit here in our shaded mountain valley. As I write this at 3:00 in > the afternoon, it’s 76 degrees. Looking out the window behind my desk I see > brown leaves riding gentle breezes to the ground. Sa” >

    1. Great excellent suggestion, sweet brother. I think with your long years of experience in television filming, editing, producing, and directing, you should be the one to create the slide show!! We could both pick the music (that’s one of your strengths too), and I’ll add one or two original ukulele pieces and do the voiceovers! That would be a fun sibling project wouldn’t it? We took thousands of pictures on the trip so we’d have a lot to work with!
      Then we’ll take it on the road…actually, these days we’d put it on YouTube and Vimeo…and Facebook…..and make a billion jillion dollars, huh? 🙂
      Thank you so much for letting me know you loved this post. I never know how one will be received, and always worry a bit…. Such is the writer’s life. Especially when one writes about sensitive subjects like religion…..
      I love you and am so grateful for you. We’ve been very fortunate in our lives, haven’t we?

  2. Dear Jeanie, It’s wonderful to read all about your numinous moments this summer and to see your lovely photos. Oh, I love it when I too behold nature’s exquisite symmetry in the garden, woodlands and meadows! And now as sunlight’s beauty starts to fade, our hearts are turning to autumn, to reap what was sown so many months ago.
    Following nature’s rhythms and cycles in poetry this year has been such a rich experience. I love how the Wheel of the Year keeps turning and how each season offers much beauty, truth and wisdom. I agree, as another soul-sister INFP, Psalm 91 speaks directly to the heart and to the joyful miracle known as life! Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah, Your deep — I would say spiritual — connection to nature, and the way you describe it in your exquisite poems is such an inspiration to me. I’ve especially enjoyed your pictures taken on your summer hikes through your English Smoky Mountains this year. Aren’t we lucky to live near such beauty?
      I love how the Wheel turns each year too. It’s so reassuring and comforting. And reliable, unlike most everything else in today’s world. Let’s hope we humans don’t find a way to mess that up too!!
      And I love it too that you hear the deeper message of Psalm 91. Thank you for letting me know that. Religious fundamentalism, divisiveness, and violence can’t take that away from us, whatever else it might spawn. The river of life flows within us all, and we can tap into it whenever we want.
      Love and light to you too, Jeanie

  3. Jean,
    As always, thanks for sharing another wonderful post. Loving the NC Mountains as much as you do and being able to spend time there every summer I can certainly understand what’s in your heart. When the landscape unfolds over the mountains with fields of wildflowers, and breathing in that fresh mountain air, every day is amazing. As I get older I have also learned to appreciate all this as well as the everyday small occurrences.

    1. I’m glad you liked it Fern. Every day here truly is amazing. And age and experience definitely intensify our awareness and sensitivity to it. It’s one of those unexpected perks that nobody prepares you for when you’re young, right? In fact, in our youth-oriented culture, it’s a very well-kept secret! Blessings, horse lady! And happy trails to you this fall. Jeanie

  4. Thank you, Jean for for sharing your beautiful vision and the deep joys of your summer at this time in your life.

  5. I’m sitting out on the balcony overlooking the ocean, seeing the green of trees and some red blossoms, listening to the sound of the sea and the birds twittering and off to my right is a view of the winding uphill (or downhill) road that goes into town. The road seems symbolic now that I think about it. I sometimes walk it, mostly drive it but whichever I almost always cannot believe the beauty of the view.
    Thank you for this lovely post Jeannie, the photos are gorgeous! I listened to the vimeo … that earthquake has been historically recorded and proven. It’s message is very powerful. I loved the Psalm too, thank you.

    1. Hi Susan,
      How lucky you are to have such a fabulous view of the ocean. There’s some symbolism for you!! 🙂 I, too, notice the symbolism in things. It seems that everything we can see in and perceive about the world and its inhabitants is just a reflection of who and what we are within: i.e. “As above, so below. As without, so within.” Maybe we should add to that: “Beauty without, beauty within.” Maybe that, too, is one of the perks of aging; becoming more beautiful within if we notice the beauty without and look at the world and ourselves mindfully. And with forgiveness.
      Actually, this documentary goes beyond that earlier study in that it reveals new data that was previously overlooked. It’s definitely worth a look if one is interested in this topic. Of course it proves nothing about who or what God and Jesus were/are, but it does suggest that some aspects of the accounts of this event may not be as embellished as some might think. I find it fascinating.
      Thank you for your comments!

  6. Wonderful to have had and sad to leave such a place and such a summer. I’m here with my dog and books, butterflies and gardens, with no plans to go anywhere other than a trip to NC to visit my son sometime after the Monarchs migrate. My son nearby when he isn’t in CA redesigned my gardens, so I have a lovely manageable vegetable garden with the right amount of food for one or two. It’s healing to work in this new space. I’ve raised and released 55 healthy Monarchs with about that many more in chrysalis or caterpillar. Yesterday, a handicapped female emerged to remind me of this aspect of life–as though I needed reminding. Only one wing is properly formed, so she won’t fly, but I’m feeding her peach juice and flowers and we’ll see how long she decides to live in her human made habitat filled with plants and sticks for walking along and soft flooring for when she falls. I’ve become a full fledged Nature Mystic with no apologies and it has little to do with my childhood experiences in a protestant church other than one summer camp when we sang outdoors under a glorious sunset and I felt joined with the Divine. My hearing is miraculously better, but I struggle with fatigue as my brain works double time to process the new sound. It’s doing it and I have to cooperate by giving myself rest and sleep. My rule is no news after 5 pm–or I don’t sleep. With love as you travel to your other beloved home.

    1. Hi Elaine.Yes, it’s been a wonderful summer and I’m feeling sad about leaving.
      Your summer sounds marvelously fulfilling and healing. You really do know how to take very good care of yourself by treating yourself to activities, people, and things you love. That has to be the most healing medicine of all.
      I love your new name: Full-fledged Nature Mystic! I think I need to claim that name for myself too. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂
      I’m so glad to know your hearing is much better, and very sorry about the fatigue. It’s been a surprise and important wake-up-call to me to discover the toll that difficult brain-work now takes on my body. It’s taken me all summer to recuperate from the mental and emotional stress of this last book. Thank goodness I’m sleeping well. Like you, I avoid the news so I won’t wake up worried and be unable to go back to sleep.
      This aging thing is quite an interesting journey isn’t it? So many things change and all we can do is become ever more mindful of healthy ways to adapt to our limitations and protect our bodies and souls.
      Love to you too as we continue our travels.

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