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.
(image by Nick Boyer)