Sanity and order still exist in this world in the realm known as nature. I am not a nature worshipper, I am a nature lover. I am not a tree shaman, I am a tree hugger. I am not a woods fairy, (yes, I have been told I am a woods fairy) I am a pastor who falls more deeply in love with nature the longer I spend on this earth. It is roaming through nature in its truest form that I will miss when I leave this world, both in the wild and the tame, and inside every person I meet who allows me to see a little piece of their soul.
There is a force in the world that moves through everything, the ancients had a word for it, ruach, in Hebrew, it means the breath or wind or spirit of God. If you listen to your own breath or listen to any screech, bellow, echo or song of any wild thing, you hear a music that is creation blowing through the hollow of living things. How can you not?
Of course, we don’t understand it fully, we have tried desperately to replace it with another force, that of a conquered wilderness (human souls included.) The wilderness has just simply been a barrier to progress. Now we are in an age where we are understanding that we must learn to somehow live in its balance which requires a deep level of respect for the created world and the ability to simply breathe deeply the air around us.
Now the scientific community seems to be in agreement that if we fail to figure this out, catastrophic consequences will occur, and some will occur anyway, regardless of how much we can reduce our co2 emissions, still it is clear, we have to act.
Though, we have a hard time becoming inspired to action. Perhaps, what is mssing is a renewed sense of wonder and awe, making space in our busy lives for nature to infuse us with her rhythm, to be played by a divine breath like a flute or a valley, empty and hollow. Perhaps we have lost touch with the very force that sustains us, perhaps we have lost touch with ourselves.
I recently visited a few Redwood forest groves where new Redwoods are thriving beside ancient giants. We could learn a great deal about how we adapt to changes from these magnificent trees, how to find a measure of order out of chaos. No one tree has been as depleted by deforestation as deeply as the Redwood, only 5% of Redwoods remain from the earth’s oldest trees. Still, if they are given the opportunity, they will renew again, over time, slowly and methodically and faithfully as a community of the ancient and the new.
How do they do it? These trees create clonal colonies around a mother tree. The mother tree can be completely burned out and hollow on the inside while other clone trees take on the growth around her, creating a circle of trees that many nature lovers refer to as a fairy ring. Not only do these trees continue the growth the mother tree began, but they form a circle of protection around her as she continues her growth. The Redwoods don’t need their insides to live, they continue to grow hollow, perhaps because they are surrounded by such a devoted community they can risk becoming empty.
We are all members of the earth, made from dust and breath and the evolving of life itself. As I say every Ash Wednesday when I make the sign of the cross on foreheads with palm ash, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return;” a nifty reminder of our temporal status in the whole scheme of things.
Perhaps it is time for us to circle up, remembering where we came from and where our horizons will eventually lead us. Earth work is soul work is spirit work. Perhaps it is time for us to circle around nature and those hollow spaces inside each one of us that just longs for home and help it all grow. As Albert Einstein said, “Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” The time is always now to explore more deeply how our human nature is connected to the nature of creation itself. The wonder of nature is transformation.