I visited a new-to-me canyon last week: the Catwalk Recreation Area in southwestern New Mexico. The place is named after an old wooden walkway that was erected over a mining-related water pipeline installed in Whitewater Canyon over a century ago. While the mining has stopped, and the walkway long ago fell apart, this has been a popular recreation area for decades. In fact, the US Forest Service installed a newer metal walkway that follows the old pipeline and allows visitors to safely wend their way back into this gorgeous, steep-sided canyon.

dsc_4657But that safety comes with a caveat. The reason I had not previously visited the Catwalk was that the “newer” walkway was severely damaged by flooding in 2014 and took almost two years and $4.4 million to reconstruct. In fact, the entire suspended walkway had to be replaced, using different materials. The new catwalk certainly appears stronger, and it’s also bolted to support structures embedded in the canyon’s walls—perhaps (I’ve been told) to make it possible to remove the entire structure in case a future flood threatens…! (I do wonder about that…the term “flash flood” was coined because it’s often impossible to have much advance warning for those things!)

The power of water is immense, but we do tend to take it for granted. Water carved the Grand Canyon, though it took millennia to do so. Water has repeatedly torn out sections of the scenic drive through the Black Range east of Silver City, forcing road closures while repairs are made. Water also recently devastated areas of Baton Rouge, Louisiana—although you might not have thought about that lately, because the disaster attention span in this country is miniscule in comparison with the actual recovery time. It could also take two years and millions of dollars for many parts of Baton Rouge to return to normal—and so many of those folks don’t have the resources of the US Government behind them to effect repairs! (If you’d like to help out with that endeavor, my spiritual director colleague Becky Eldridge, who lives in the area, recommends Catholic Charities or the Baton Rouge Area Foundation).

So what does this have to do with the spiritual life? I find my heart going in a variety of directions. I invite you to read through these questions and ponder how the Holy Spirit might be inviting you to respond:

  • When did you last take time to appreciate the beauty of the moment, recognizing that it could all be swept away tomorrow?
  • How has the power of water impacted your life, or the life of your family or your ancestors?
  • Has devastation or natural disaster occurred in your area in the past couple of years? Is there anything you might do to support those who are still struggling to recover?
  • Do you take water for granted? How might you appreciate water and its essential, complex role in your life?
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