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I don’t even remember the full context of the conversation.  We were discussing that God is neither male or female. That’s how we can both be made in God’s image.

“Oh, yeah!  And people of all races and abilities. And all of creation.”

::cricket cricket cricket::

Clearly as far as this person was concerned, I had just jumped the shark, gone too far, walked into oblivion.  And I have to admit that for me this understanding came in stages.  Men and women and all of humanity came first.  Only later did I come to appreciate the fact that all of  creation itself reflects God.

I’d always sought God out in the outdoors.  Listening to the wind and watching cloud shadows cross the desert.  But a piece of art work brought it all home to me.

At a distance, this is an image of Christ.  Closer, you see it as dozens and dozens of natural images.  There are flowers and fronts, birds and beasts.  Taken individually, you see that one plant or animal.  Pull back and you see the big picture – God in Christ.

Every plant.  Every animal.  Every human being.  Each is an imperfect, incomplete reflection of the One wharped and wavering and still capable of showing us something greater.

–SueBE

 

 

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My grandfather was a salesman for Westinghouse.  He spent his week dressed in a suit making calls on various customers, showing them the latest in electrical boxes and the like.  Many a building in downtown St. Louis contained components that he had sold.

When he got off, he’s head to his suburban home and sip a martini.  Evenings he grilled on the patio around which he had planted a variety of roses and mums.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and it would have been easy for me to learn to see the world as urban (good) and all those other grubby people.  But that wasn’t Bumpa’s way.  He also loved to hunt mushrooms so he knew many of the farmers around St. Louis.  His favorites were the morrells and he knew where to find them.  He’d bring a gift for the farmer and chat for a while before heading into the woods to look for mushrooms.

He also loved to fish.  When we’d go down to the lake, we’d stop and spend time with another farm family he knew.  I have no clue how they met but to reach their  land, you drove down a narrow country lane and then too a hard right across a field, nosing a gate open with the hood of the car.

My childhood memories include following men in overalls and women in gingham out to various barns to see calves, lambs and piglets.  Me?  I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, have the skills of a farmer but I love the sound of rain on a corrugated roof, the taste of a garden ripe tomato, and the crunch of an apple fresh off the tree.

I’m thankful my grandfather taught me these things.  They help me appreciate God’s creation all that much more.

–SueBE

Mary Oliver is dead. Maybe that name doesn’t mean anything to you. It should. Mary was one of the greatest poets of our time, and if you aren’t familiar with her work, I urge you — no, I beg you — to look her up. Her philosophy was that poetry shouldn’t be fussy, a sentiment all of my favorite poets share. She wrote about nature largely, but in doing so also wrote about deeper matters, matters of faith and spiritual sustenance. Her poems were like the most joyous of prayers, little hallelujahs. The world is poorer without her.

To see the least of God’s creatures
and view the universe in mandibles, pincers, paws;
to discover the very hue of God’s eyes in
a field of wheat, winter leaf or sprig of mint;
to capture all high heaven in the upturned work
of furrowing ants — what small eyes you had
and yet, how large. You are seeing it all now,
at last, and how it must dazzle! Pray for us,
toiling poets, working our own furrows,
that we will see, despite the size of our eyes,
the real, the plaintive, the whirring of wings
that wend ever heavenward, wings of locusts
or angels. It is all the same.

Tonight while my husband grills dinner, I’m going to clean up the patio set.  It’s a bit dusty and there are birds in the vicinity.  But I’ve also met two deadlines in the past week.  To put it simply, I’m feeling stressed.  Just a few too many people are turning to me with taksts that need to be done.

I feel the need to spend some time outside.

Sure, part of it is avoiding the fun.  Take it outside?  What if I dropped it on the paving stones?  It sounds like a bad idea.

I’m only half-joking.  I’m really not one of those people who always has her phone at her side.  I tend to lose it.

But there are weeds to pull.  And its supposed to rain on Friday.  I love listening to the rain on a corrugated roof.

Rain and wind.  Trees and grass.  All can help put things in perspective.

Breathe, they seem to say.  Be.  Be in and part of God’s Creation.    It is enough.

–SueBE

 

 

I’m learning a lot from PBS natural specials. Last night, I watched a troop of chimpanzees launch a concerted attack on a group of gibbons — surround them, roust them, attack them, tear them apart and eat them. It was very disturbing. I mean, isn’t that a little like cannibalizing a cousin?

And did you know that a full 20% of squirrels — that’s one in five — doesn’t collect food for the winter? No. He (or she) steals them from other squirrels. In fact, lives a life of crime. How does that happen? Are some squirrels born bad? Is it nature or nurture?

I guess what upsets me so much about these acts is that they are so very human. And aren’t animals supposed to be better than that? I realize how backwards that sounds. So often, humans are lauded as the highest of God’s creatures — the only ones who think, who have the ability to plan, who are moral, who are civilized. Except maybe we aren’t. Maybe we’re just less-furry mammals. Because we steal. We kill. Even human flesh isn’t off the menu (so to speak) for a depraved few. So what distinguishes us from so-called lower forms of life? Maybe less than we think.

Yet animals are also capable of extraordinary acts of goodness. A dog will nurse kittens; a cat will nurse a puppy or a rabbit. Strange animal friendships abound: a dog and a cheetah, a gorilla and a kitten, a bear and a tiger. In many ways, animals seem more capable than humans of reaching across lines of perceived differences and striking an accord. Yet we’re the ones with free will. And, at least according to some faith practices, the only ones with souls.

Maybe it’s time to take a good long look in the mirror. In what ways are we no better than animals? In what ways are we perhaps worse? In what ways might we learn from animals how to treat one another and the planet we live on?

I think God gave us a wide range of examples to follow — or to eschew. That’s why our world is so vibrantly alive with so many species of living things. Our job is to observe. Not to judge — we have no real moral authority for that — but to look, examine, and see how we want our lives to differ or mirror theirs. And to protect them, because we aren’t any better than they are. We’re just different. And we all have something to give.

Except for mosquitoes. Those little monsters are pure menace. Am I right?

Regular readers will remember my obsession with the spiders that inhabit the windowsill of my bathroom during the summer months. Every year, three Charlottes set up shop: One in each corner and one under the window handle. And every year, I wonder about interfering in their lives.

I’m a neat freak. It makes me uncomfortable to allow spiders to just hang out and do their thing, littering the sill with the corpses of their prey. On the other hand, I’m not fond of any creepy-crawlies, and the spiders keep those to a minimum by ensnaring them upon entrance to the house. I generally live and let live. And then came the conundrum known as Big Boris.

Boris, another spider, but perhaps 20 times the size of the petite Charlottes, made his entrance several weeks ago, positioning himself above the web of the spider in the left-hand corner. I felt that a takeover was imminent. Always one to root for the “little guy” (or girl), I thought about eliminating Boris before he could do any harm.

But I’d completely misread the situation. Boris disappeared one morning, leaving several limbs behind. How had the threat been neutralized? I’ll never know. Apparently, left-corner spider was tougher than I thought.

And then I realized, “If I don’t know enough to stay out of the business of spiders, what right do I have to question God on how Godself handles the affairs of this world?” Yes, it can be easy to look around and think that God somehow misunderstands what we need…or is too busy to care. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. Just as those spiders don’t need me to interfere, God does not need my opinion on how the world ought to work. All I’m seeing are the Big Borises. God sees the much, much bigger picture. God is on top of things, no matter how it might look to us, busily building our own little webs.

Since the Boris incident, the spiders have abandoned their webs. Perhaps it got too hot on the ledge. Today I gently wiped down the window frame. But I left a few strands of webbing, just in case. Life will go on, as God in God’s wisdom sees that it should. It’s God’s plan, not mine, and I’m okay with that.

 

 

I entered the garden, my head stuffed with thoughts. (I’m so busy, but I’m not making enough money. When will my “next big thing” arrive? Am I on the wrong path?) It was my husband’s idea, getting year-round passes to our city’s botanical gardens. “We’ll always have something to do on the weekend,” he said. Now (What on earth prompted me to say what I said to our pastor last night? Do I need to bring dessert to the barbecue tonight?) we were there, and my head just would not shut up. Words clanged inside my brain. (Whatwherewhowhenwhatififnotthenwhynot?)

 But then something funny happened. God took over. He hit me with smells and textures and green, leafy things. Tea roses in yellow, pink and peach. Strawberry-and-cream pansies. Phlox and flares, lupins and live-4-evers. Orange poppies blooming big as my outstretched hand. Thyme, lavender, lemon verbena. I was knocked out flat.

And suddenly, all I could hear was the wind and the birds and my mind crooning rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say rejoice!

 I takes a lot to shut off my brain. Fortunately for me, God knew where to send me to make it happen.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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