The old woman you saw skipping church this morning was I, darting pangs of conflict over my sin of omission.

That was I wrestling with menacing guilt and then smiling quietly over feeling justified by the grace of already being in the midst of a grand sanctuary.

Casting long glances first to the Epistle and then to the Gospel side, that was I you saw settling into a pew carved by nature, as slivers of sunlight cut through old pines whose tree-tops floated above in a backdrop of azure.

That was I on the Day of the Lord who became a silent witness to God's tremendous grandeur and who exchanged church for the echo of any number of birds as an angels' chorus melodically warbled in C Major.

That was I you caught a glimpse of trading traditional liturgy for the worship of God-shaped canyons and finding contrition in delicately laced lichen.

The one you saw reflecting on life's path was I, who scattered deer while lightly stepping deeper into the cathedral forest, where musty sage perfume and sunburned leaf beds rose as incense.

That old woman you saw seeking wise counsel was I, listening to the wind winnow in short intervals through thick stands of ash as it created a holy trickling, like baptismal waters sprinkling over the soft new forehead of an infant.

That was I lingering while paying tribute to the place where rushes of wind became a mighty spirit, a massive river ambling invisibly above and through me.

Yes, I confess that was I you found praying to the silent noise that this holy house brings forth.

That was I petitioning it not to cease, imploring that it deafen the cry of my otherwise morose mood.

The old woman you saw skipping church on Sunday was I welcoming the company of finches swooping upward and then downward circling me, as a blessing of my travels.

The one you saw kneeling before the ever rising sun – that was I.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took five first-place awards statewide. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

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