“Sometimes, nature awakens us to God. There are moments when we feel that every bush could be burning with God’s presence and love, that running water and singing birds speak of joy and comfort. Thunderheads shake me and bathe me and charge me with the power and majesty of God.
That is why I make it habit to go into the woods and walk by the streams often, in hopes that, if I am open, today might be a day when each flower and leaf and bush are more than ‘just’ anything and like Moses, I will realize I am on holy ground.”
Brian McClaren in A Search for What is Real
I grew up within 15 miles of Walden Pond, the little New England pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau’s book “Walden.” Once or twice a week, my family drove by the pond road on the way to my grandparents who lived ten miles beyond. But I have no memory of ever going to Walden, probably because my grandparents ran a public swimming pool *and* an ice cream stand. Now the swimming pool and the ice cream stand have turned into a car dealership, but Walden Pond remains almost as beautiful and unspoiled as it was when Thoreau built a one room cabin and spent a year living simply in the woods.
Last summer I finally went to the pond several times thanks to Lucy and her parents now living just down the road . We often went towards the end of the day when the sliver of sandy beach wasn’t so crowded. I loved the chance to get away from the hustle and bustle, to put away distractions like the internet and shopping, and to take in the beauty of God’s creation.
Once Elizabeth, Lucy and I walked around the pond and Lucy enjoyed hugging the rocks near the site of Thoreau’s cabin. This winter, we went back and enjoyed a different kind of beauty.
Now I’m back in New England again, basking in the special glories of God’s creation here. Instead of walks along a dusty city street surrounded by concrete, I’m walking along a road bounded by thick woods, filled with dozens of different kinds of trees and birds and creatures. I point out white birches to Lucy and the acorn shells a chipmunk left on a lichen-covered granite rock. I marvel at a dragonfly.
I say a silent thanks that late in this dry summer, there are no mosquitoes. We see a red squirrel scampering along a stone wall. Later, canoeing on the Concord River, we watch a dozen turtles sunning on logs and a magnificent great blue heron stalking in the shallows.
To spend some attentive time in nature is yet another way I enjoy God [number 4 if you’re counting]. I find there is something deeply spiritual about the very physical experience. It reminds me I’m part of God’s larger creation. I watch the sunrise and the sunset, the moon in the night, the stars, the clouds moving across the sky and know: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” [Psalm 19:1] I see His power and creativity and evidence of His loving care. As I contemplate the beauty, the diversity, the intricacy of what He has made, it fills me with awe and wonder and praise. My soul is refreshed.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds…
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for His name alone is exalted;
His splendor is above the earth and the heavens.