JEFF BEHRENS: The simple things are the most beautiful

My doctor told me that I should walk every day. In the heat of the summer, I could have done better. When I was in Manhattan recently, maybe I made up for it. I must have walked miles every day.

I love everything about Manhattan. You cannot walk 5 feet without seeing something interesting.

So, this morning I gathered the few things I need for my walk. I took my camera, some film, my glasses and hat. And off I went.

Walking usually gives rise to thinking. But not a worrisome kind of thinking. It is the kind of thinking that touches on thoughts and then lets them go, thoughts seem to fade into one another as I move along.

I headed out one of the back doors of the monastery and headed in the direction of the retreat house. It was a sunny day, and the light and shadows were beautiful earlier this morning as they played off each other on the sandy white walls of the retreat house.

I stopped and took some pictures, trying to be conscious of the interplay of the shadows, the light and the beauty in between.

I finished up there and then walked down the path to the heavy equipment area, where we keep the tractors and other heavy equipment.

As I approached the large garage, I heard noise. Someone was fixing a tire. So I walked into the barn and saw Pee Wee and Oscar, two men who have worked for us for years, fixing a wheel on the tractor. We chatted a bit.

I looked about and immediately thought of Damian. His handiwork was everywhere -- on the walls, the doors, the floor, in cabinets and on shelves.

Damian was a monk and a good friend of mine. He died a few years ago. Looking about the large area in the garage, I had the feeling that he might walk around the corner any moment.

His memory is still vivid to me. I can easily see his face, hear his voice, remember his comments, his joy and sense of humor. I told Pee Wee and Oscar how the place so brought him to my mind and they nodded in unison.

"Damian was a good man. A good man. Smart, too. He could fix anything," Pee Wee said.

I asked if I could take their pictures. I did not use a flash, and relied upon the available light. I hope I got the settings right on the camera. I snapped away as Oscar and Pee Wee went about their work. I feel much at ease with them, much at home with them.

Pee Wee offered to drive me back to the main building. I should have walked, but felt lazy. It was starting to get hot and I did not refuse the ride.

Pee Wee got behind the wheel and I climbed in next to him. I noticed his graying hair. He talked of some aches and pains as we drove back. He said he gets shots for the pain. I told him I hoped whatever shots he was being given for the pain work.

I thanked him for the ride.

So many people to thank. For such simple, but wondrous things. A ride back. A pose for a picture. The remembrance of Damian. All he was, all he did. Many and simple things, for others.

I caught it all, in the light I had available.

I know more will come. More light. More beauty.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His e-mail address is james@trappist.net.