Holiness in our Midst: Session 131

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Story Circle Prompt: Do you have a “Touchstone Place?”

In her book, Keeping a Nature Journal, Clare Walker Leslie uses the phrase “My Touchstone Place” about her “sanctuary in every season,” Mount Auburn Cemetery and Arboretum near Cambridge, MA. She writes that it is “America’s first landscaped cemetery, encompassing 175 acres of dells, glades, woods, and ponds.”* It has been the source of many drawings in her beautifully illustrated journals.

My “Touchstone Place” is a swinging gate I call “My Measuring Post,” which guards the lane on the west side of my grandparents’ farm near State Center, IA. Perhaps you have chosen such a reference place as a reminder of what is most important to you. Mine exists as a relatively permanent “fixed point” to go back to, a place where I can review whether I am living up to the benchmarks I set for myself. I have stood at my gate to evaluate the pros and cons of every major decision, since I was a child: How do I solve this life issue? Where should I go to college? Should I marry ____? Should I take this job opportunity? Though Grandpa and Grandma Albright have been gone for many years, I still drive past “their” gate whenever I am at a crossroads in my life. Sometimes I open the gate and literally walk down the lane and do a whole life overview with God: Have I made good decisions? Have I done and am I doing God’s will? What changes do I need to make? It is comforting to have found a place to measure spiritual growth.

*Leslie, Clare Walker. Keeping a Nature Journal (North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2021), 13.


  1. Read the above reflection. Clare Walker Leslie, author of Keeping a Nature Journal, coined the phrase Daily Exceptional Images (DEI), which she describes as “some gem from the outdoors that I can latch onto when feeling distracted, dulled by routine, or deeply worried.” Examples she gave were: “Jeweled raindrops hanging upside down from a pine” and “Waxing summer moon rises to east over highway.”* In your journal, answer the following: What are today’s exceptional images from your unique vantage point on the world?

    *Leslie, Clare Walker. Keeping a Nature Journal (North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2021), 82, 83.


  1.  Read aloud Session CXXXI.
  2.  Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com

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