18 January 2012

Nature & Its Lessons

Growing up in Utah I often went into the mountains.  It was a family thing...my dad is an eternal scout master. I can't think of a time when he was not working with the young men in the neighborhood as their scout leader, Sunday school teacher, young men adviser, and now Bishop. I don't think he's really held any other church calling or responsibility in all my life.  And it's a good thing...he loves the outdoors, and loves to share that passion with others.

All that time spent in nature has made it so nature itself feels like home...no matter where I am.  The beauty of nature experienced anywhere in the world brings the same familiar feelings of my youth and my family.

As a child, I remember being distinctly aware that connection to nature somehow made me different.  My ability to appreciate nature made me different than those that did not yet know or recognize it's beauty.   I was convinced it made me calmer, gave me a sense of peace and security, filled me with awe and wonder.  I often felt sorry for those who grew up in the city with no idea of what a connection with nature feels like.  I guess now I feel a little sorry for myself for having so few opportunities to reconnect here in NYC (this explains why I told Mara that I felt like we were in heaven when we went here).

Anyway, I was reading a book the other day that got me thinking about the hidden power and message of nature.  The book recounted the experience of Brother Lawrence in 17th century France (page 486-91) and the beginning of his spiritual awakening (you can read more of his truly remarkable insights in this collection of his letters).   In the dead of winter, returning from years of war where he served as a soldier, he comes upon a barren tree, stripped of leaves, flower and fruit.  In a "flash of God" he realized that what only appeared dead was full of the presence of patient life, life that was just waiting for the abundance of spring. This moment proved to be a metaphor for the rest of his life.

We often speak of the four seasons as representing life in it's stages...spring and it's new birth, summer and it's bright youth, fall and adulthood, winter and inevitable death, and then new life or resurrection at the returning spring.  And though there is beauty in this big picture understanding and noting that "all things bear record of God"...the thought occurred to me today that nature not only teaches us of the grand symbols of birth, life, old age and death...but also presents a picture of the day to day.   I love the imagery of a tree that appears dead due to winter, but in reality is teaming with life that is patiently awaiting the warmth of spring, at which time it will seemingly burst forth all at once.  The tree does not dread the winter time, it is not afraid of the cold and barren times of it's life...it waits patiently, full of inner life, until it can burst forth in due time, stronger and more vibrant than it was the year before.

Hopefully, that is the story of us all as we pass through the trials and winters of our lives.

With Love,
Danny

(image by Nick Boyer)

10 comments:

  1. Beautiful post. I often think about the cyclical nature of human character development. So often I feel I lose ground in my personal growth as presented with new challenges, then I move forward again and move beyond where I began. It seems like fits and start, but maybe it is just passing through the seasons again, hopefully gaining more wisdom each time round.

    I will go read more of Brother Lawrence.

    I love this part: "The tree does not dread the winter time..."

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  2. Just beautiful.
    I like the perspective shift that this suggests too- it's not a season of dreariness, but one of anticipation.

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  3. There is life in death- i love that about the life, death, life cycle. Loved this post- thanks for sharing!

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  4. So beautifully written and a message I certainly needed. Thank you for this post Danny. And as always, for this blog! You and Mara mean so much to me, and yet we've never met in person. How crazy!

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  5. Nature feels like home to me, too. "I was convinced it made me calmer, gave me a sense of peace and security, filled me with awe and wonder." Exactly.

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  6. "The tree does not dread the winter time, it is not afraid of the cold and barren times of it's life...it waits patiently, full of inner life, until it can burst forth in due time, stronger and more vibrant than it was the year before. " I LOVE THIS LINE! I am saving this I hope you know.

    This blog post reminds me of the idea of "God's View"--God sees the past, present, future of our lives he has an eternal perspective. Most of us see life through "Man's View"--we see only what is here in the present. But this is where we need to push beyond this and learn from our past to prepare us for our future, but to use that vibrancy to live NOW. Nature is beautiful in this way...like a tree stump you can see its entire life (God's View) the past is not hidden but it has embraced it in the outlines of its life. We can use this as a metaphor to our lives to look back on what is behind us and to learn from those trials and select the best qualities of our life to implement them into our lives.

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  7. Sage - I'm glad I peaked your interest in Brother Lawrence - the book I read lead me to the full production of his notes and letters and I have absolutely loved them (read them in a single night). Enjoy! After the war, he become a monk and lived the rest of his life in the kitchen of the monastery. It is amazing the joy he finds in even the simplest and most mundane of tasks as he "practices the presence of God". Very unique man indeed, and a great teacher.

    Ceci - exactly...I think that's part of the key to life...always anticipation and excitement for growth that will come, even during the "winters" of our lives...in fact especially then.

    Maria - Thanks!

    Lisset - thank you for that sentiment, we feel the same about each of you!

    Molly - delighted to find someone who relates.

    Anon - Yes yes yes!!! Couldn't agree more and appreciate your insights.

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  8. Danny, you and my husband Bryce served together on Manaus. He recently showed me your blog and I just have to say it has been so fun to read. You and Mara have such a talent for writing. Thanks for writing such insightful and thoughtful posts!

    Carolee Jaynes

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    1. Thanks Carolee, that really means a lot to us. I'm sure I don't have to explain why (you did marry him after all), but Bryce was one of my very favorite guys that I served with in Manaus. We learned a lot in our 3-4 months sharing that area, and I always appreciated his completely sincere and honest love for the people we were teaching and serving. He was one of the most dedicated guys I knew.

      Glad that you've found and enjoy the blog!

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  9. danny, great comments and analogy. I loved it! thanks for sharing your wisdom and insight!

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