Desire Lines

August 15, 2015 | Reflections from Sr Antonia

I first heard of desire lines years ago from my brother-in-law who is a Town Planner by profession. We were walking along the footpath when he stopped suddenly and pointed towards a track made by people who had cut across the grass rather than walking along the carefully planned and constructed footpath. “See that”, he said. I nodded and he continued, “In our profession that’s called a “desire line.”

That was over thirty years ago, long before I entered monastic life, but it often comes to mind. And what had brought it to my mind this particular day was a little lizard who lives in my cell garden, and has done so for quite a few years. He has also found a way through a crack in the bricks that allows him into my cell, and so he visits me inside every now and again.

lizard 1

Whilst at lectio divina early one morning, I sat looking out my window to the beautiful rainforest trees across the paddock, when a movement on the verandah caught my attention. It was my little lizard friend making a journey from under his rock in the garden to the space between the bricks where he comes through to the inside. And, to my amazement, he did what we humans do, he created a desire line.

And so… “desire lines” became the subject of my lectio.

Timelines, deadlines, onlines, datelines, desire lines. It seemed to me that one way or another all have something in common. The notions of connection, communication, meeting, movement, travel come to mind.

Still, something below these surface musings was nagging at me. Isn’t desire at the heart of who I am as a nun? And, if my desire for God is such that it would impel me to make a desire line toward God in the same manner as that of the people in the park all those years ago, or of my little lizard friend now, what would that mean? Would I “cut across” some of my self-centred and ego inspired defences and motivations, my judgments and projections?

As I shifted rather uneasily in my chair, I could feel my heart starting to melt, this time with a certain dis-ease. Previous melting moments have been uplifting, moments filled with gratitude, awe, wonder, compassion, love. Now, even though I felt my heart melting, it was a different kind of melting… the kind of “softening” that happens when I realize that I have a need for metanoia (change of heart).

“If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts”, we sing in choir for the Invitatory antiphon at Vigils. (Psalm 94:8) Our hearts can become very hardened sometimes, even by complacency. Recently Pope Frances actually spoke of the “wilderness and anguish caused by complacency”.

Something as insignificant as a little lizard making its way across a verandah this day was enough to shift me to a new level of self knowledge, an awareness that I need to be very diligent about my desire lines! “Fan the flame of desire”, I remember reading more than once, and I heard these words again now.

And so, dis-ease notwithstanding, I feel a certain gratitude for my little lizard friend who unwittingly became the trigger for my reflections about desire, desire lines and melting moments.

lizard 2

This was a different kind of melting moment to soften my heart, and one that was not necessarily totally palatable, even though holding a precious gift and a necessary “wake up” call.

And so…truly a melting moment!