Unique and Unrepeatable Autumn

leaf imprints - image courtesy of Rebecca Ruiz for IgnatianSpirituality.com

In his autobiography, St. Ignatius Loyola recounts how “the greatest consolation he used to receive was to look at the sky and the stars, which he did often and for a long time, because with this he used to feel in himself a great impetus towards serving Our Lord.” (11)

Ignatius’s fondness for stargazing resonates with me, because nature is my go-to place for finding God. When my prayer life is dry, going out into nature invariably brings me back to God, as everywhere I turn, I see God’s gifts. When my prayer life is lush, it becomes even more verdant when I’m in nature, because the more I see, the more praise emanates from my heart.

The other day, I was walking along, admiring the bronze and golden leaves lining my path. I noticed before me a stretch of sidewalk upon which leaves had left indelible imprints. Some prints were delicate and perfect, while others were smudged.

These leaves left a silhouette in my mind that lingered long after I passed that stretch of concrete. As I walked along, I realized that, although they had lived only half a year at most, in this short time they had brightened my path with vibrant greens in the spring, shaded my face from the searing sun in the summer, and now, even in death, had left their mark upon the earth—and my heart. I continued on, contemplating how God had created every leaf, every blade of grass, every butterfly, and every rainbow—and how, despite their fleeting existence, their presences had left a lasting impression on me. I found myself humming the old hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing?”

As I ambled on, I thought too of all the people that God has created. If we consider our lives against the backdrop of eternity, our life span is akin to that of a leaf. St. John Paul II’s words came to mind:

A human being is an object to be counted, something considered under the aspect of quantity, one of many millions. Yet at the same time he is a single being, unique and unrepeatable…If our human statistics, human categories, human political, economic and social systems, and mere human possibilities fail to ensure that man can be born, live and act as one who is unique and unrepeatable, then all this is ensured by God. For God and before God, the human being is always unique and unrepeatable, somebody thought of and chosen from eternity, some called and identified by his own name. (Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 1978, 1).

Isn’t that beautiful? Like the leaves of autumn, we are each “unique and unrepeatable” and “chosen from eternity.”

It makes me wonder, what will be my imprint upon the earth?

And you, my “unique and unrepeatable” friend, what will your imprint be?

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Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She has been trained as an Ignatian spiritual director through Fairfield University’s four-year formation program. Rebecca served in refugee resettlement for nearly 15 years and has also worked as an ethnomusicologist, composer, and writer. She and her husband have two sons and live at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. She strives, as St. Ignatius taught, to see God in all things and do “all things for the greater glory of God.”


  1. On 5 November, 2022, I left a reply to your lovely stargazing piece.
    I thought you might like to see a poem I wrote recently, while staying at the Garlic Farm.
    on the Isle of Wight, gazing at the night sky, from my bed..

    So dark, the night –
    no spark of light,
    no wavy signal from a star,
    shining purely from afar
    to brighten up the navy sky.

    And here am I, eyes upturned,
    needing stellar comfort
    after the doubts of the day,
    seeking a way…
    but wait –
    yes, look, there IS one star:
    a friendly wink.

    Now, I think,
    all will be well.

  2. Thank you Rebecca.
    I resonate with so much of what you share. My spiritual director would often affirm my inclination to find God in nature.
    As a retired Director of Spiritual Care in a hospital and later a Licensed Counselling Therapist specializing in Grief, Loss and Life transitions I always recommend the evidence based coping strategies of using all types of nature- Shinrin Yoku, Water, sunsets/rises and so much more. I dedicate a whole chapter in my book MY CHAOS Searching for My New Normal to nature.
    Finally as a musician one of my favourite songs to play and sing with my banjo and friends on mandolin and guitar is How Can I Keep from Singing
    I thank you so much fir your personal insights and lived experience!
    Rick C Benson

  3. Thank you for sharing this meditation, Rebecca. I didn’t know this about St. Ignatius but I was happy to hear it. I enjoy stargazing from time to time too. Looking up at the night sky gives me a deeper appreciation for what is really important in life. Maybe it’s just gravity but the fact of the matter is that the problems that were so present in the forefront of my mind just a few moments prior are pushed into the recesses of my brain and squeezed smaller by this act of looking up…lol And rather than feeling that my life is meaningless or unimportant, my life’s smallness in comparison to the cosmos leaves me feeling lighter and more in control. It’s a feeling that very similar to the one I get when I look at a particular picture in the back of a church in my hometown. This picture shows Jesus hanging on the cross from the viewpoint of the heavens above with the clouds beneath his feet. No matter what troubles we face in life, Jesus will always be there to catch us and save us from any abyss if we but say His name.

  4. You will all have heard of Sir Patrick Moore, the irrepressible and knowledgeable astronomer, whose TV series ‘The Sky at Night’ left us pretty, well, dazzled. When I published his book of poems (‘For Children of all Ages’), WITHIN THE GLADE, my major media release was headed: ‘Poems from the Master Stargazer’. Sadly,
    the book is now out of print, but ever imprinted on my mind is those poems about creatures in his imaginary glade. He was not a practising Christian, but I believe that anyone with such a love of nature is automatically a child of God. When I look up at a twinkling star, I see Patrick winking at me.

  5. Thanks Rebecca for these beautiful thoughts. Leaving behind the right imprint is a big challenge for us fellow mortals who are fired by the Ignatian Magis. Saint Ignatius of Loyola – Pray for us.

  6. I’d like to think my imprint may be something akin to Felix Randal’s.
    From “Felix Randal” by Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ
    “How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,/When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,/Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!”.

  7. Beautiful! I love to think of how there are and have been so many people in the world, yet each one is different despite our commonalities. I also love to look at the night sky. It is a miraculous world that humans could not begin to assemble in such beauty but are blessed to be able to live in when it is properly appreciated. Also love that hymn! Thank you for writing this – I wish everyone would reverence the uniqueness and value of each human being – there is lip service paid to “the miracle of life,” but mankind seems to have a hard time living that out.


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