St. Francis in Hopland

Orange Tabby at St. Francis Church
Hopland, California
\”Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received
only what you have given.\”
-St. Francis of Assisi
On my way to the Sonoma Valley, my mom and I stopped for lunch at a cafe that was barely open, I ordered a panini sandwich and a goat cheese beet salad for the side. They only offered take-out, the counties in this area are shutting down all dining, indoor and outdoor except for take-out until after the New Year. 
My mom and I took our boxed lunches to a counter outside of the cafe. With plastic forks and paper napkins, we ate our lunch. The sun was a beautiful late afternoon glow promising an early sunset. While, I ate my salad, I thought of Scott, how much he would like to eat what I was eating. I thought about how if he was here, we would split the sandwich and the salad, eating together, and sharing what we had seen and what we were looking forward to. I could feel the butterflies in my stomach and the memories flooding of the surrounding towns we had visited and explored.  I could tell my mom was feeling the sorrow of Scott\’s loss as well. 
Walking back to the car, my mom asked if I would like to walk to the small white chapel a short distance from where we were parked.
In front of the church, two older ladies from the neighborhood, smoking their cigarettes, with small dogs attached to leashes visited with each other. I watched as a small crowd of cats climbed the steps of the St. Francis Church. Patiently, I waited, anticipating the photo I would capture of cats congregating at St. Francis\’s Church, how perfect, I thought. 
Suddenly, I heard my voice greet the ladies, ask them about their day and the church. This isn\’t me, I thought, I don\’t engage with \”strangers\”.  The neighbor ladies shuffled over several feet inviting me to take photos of the church while letting me know about the \”nine\” cats who lived at the church and how well they were taken care of. 
Fully immersed in the act of photo taking, I took pictures at different angles, noting how this wasn\’t my usual way of capturing a photo.
I lost myself following the cats, taking photos and reveling in the miracle that animals were here at the St. Francis Church, my favorite Saint, a known lover of animals and nature.
Pair of Sparrows
I watched as a flock of sparrows flew over to the church. They chatted and sang as they happily fussed about finding their places in the bushes rising up from the ground shading the church. Underneath, the cats sat \”zen\” like, not even blinking at the birds. 
\”My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky, \”Francis said, \”you are bound to heaven, to God, your creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of air.\”
St. Francis\’s Sermon written in the book
\”The Little Flowers of St. Francis
Walking back from the church to the car. I looked at my mom \”that was a miracle, cats and a flock of sparrows at the Church of St. Francis\”.
I smiled to myself. I felt peace. I felt Scott was with me the whole time.

Published by As the Road Wanders

Travel Blogger and Traveler

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