Sr. Ana Iris Graña, I.H.M.

As the COVID-19 lockdown hit, I was afraid to leave my house. There was, and still is, so much uncertainty as to how the virus spreads and who is mostly at risk.

After a few days, however, I needed to go out and walk in the neighborhood. I knew that I had to take all necessary precautions to stay safe. But walking seemed like something that I could do to regenerate positively by observing my surroundings from a social distance.

Being originally from Florida, I was not used to seeing such beautiful colors in the spring, and it was a real treat for me. I remember walking after dinner one evening and seeing how the trees were in full bloom. The awesome colors glowed as the sun’s rays struck the branches at a certain angle.

I wanted to find beauty in the midst of a terrible situation that continues to envelop us. In so many ways, the pandemic has brought us to a complete halt. But perhaps God has given us a gift of time with our family, time to reflect and time to reevaluate our daily lives.

The virus has made me aware that I do not look up as much as I should in order to appreciate the natural beauty that is God’s painted sky.

Walking quietly, I take in the ambience of the neighborhood. Each block has its own character and life.  What really amazes me is how many small creatures lived in the flower gardens of the homes. Treading carefully, I’ve tried to communicate to them that I am only an observer.

A stray cat in Northeast Philadelphia gazes at the camera of I.H.M. Sister Ana Iris Graña, who rediscovered God’s creation during walks amid COVID restrictions. (Photo courtesy of I.H.M. Sister Ana Iris Graña)

There really is a natural rhythm to the neighborhood. I began to see some animals daily at certain times – although some get up quite early, including a number of birds that start singing at 4:30 a.m. I can hear them when I wake, and I just turn over, because there is no way I am getting up to see them at that hour. They do remind me, however, that God is all around us even as we sleep.

During my treks, I realized I might want to bring my small camera to make a record of the beauty I observed, including the many flowers whose names I didn’t know. It took me a few attempts before I had what I thought was the perfect picture.

I love the natural light, and the setting of the sun is a favorite time, especially since it is so fleeting. Perhaps that is why it is so special to me. In life, we often have only a small window to do something, and therefore we must take the initiative and do it then.

As I’ve walked, I can feel the breeze that comes through each street, especially in the shade. I can feel the presence of God in the breeze. The rustling of the leaves reminds me that God speaks to us as we make an effort to enjoy his presence.

During her daily walks. I.H.M. Sister Ana Iris Graña developed a deeper appreciation for God’s handiwork in nature and its creatures, including this baby owl. (Photo courtesy of I.H.M. Sister Ana Iris Graña)

These months of sickness and fear have in a sense been a time of healing, during which I have been able to rekindle my bond with nature and ground myself in what is really important.

Psalm 148 best expresses all that I have seen and experienced in this unexpected journey to rediscovering God’s goodness: “Praise the Lord from the heavens … praise the Lord from the earth … fruit trees and all cedars, animals wild and tame, creatures that crawl and birds that fly; kings of the earth and all peoples … Let them all praise the Lord’s name” (Ps 148: 1,7,9-11,13).

***

I.H.M. Sister Ans Iris Graña is in residence at St. William Parish Convent in Philadelphia.