We hiked in a nearby state park this weekend. Being on the coast of the Puget Sound, even in late August, it was very green. Trees, ferns, and moss everywhere. I am not interested in trees the way I am birds. Part of that may go back to emotional scars from the annual leaf collection projects of late elementary school.
But on Saturday, I was appreciating the trees. Hemlocks and cedars and big-leaf maples. Interesting configurations and ways they had adapted and overcome various challenges. It would not have surprised me to find an Ent looking down at us.
There is something restorative about being out in the green of nature. I clearly remember going camping after a year in the brown and tan of Iraq. It seemed counter-intuitive after living in a tent for a year, but there is a big difference between camping with my family and being deployed or in the field. One of those differences was the scenery.
I distinctly remember a healing moment on my kayak in Chain O’Lakes State Park in Indiana, surrounded by lily pads and trees and other greenery, floating on the water with the sun shining and a Red-winged Blackbird singing in the brush. It was cleansing. It was comforting. I received it as a gift from God.
Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Pathways, would label me as a naturalist, one who often feels close to God or is drawn to worship and reflection in the outdoors. That’s an accurate assessment. I am amazed at God’s creativity and artistry in the world around me. From the towering peak of Mount Rainier to the Black-eyed Susans next to my neighbor’s house, it seems there is always something to look at and be amazed by.
Even something like ornamental grass going to seed is a thing of wonder and beauty. Not only the colors of green and gold and the play of the evening light upon them, but also the progression from seed to plant to more seeds. I understand enough biology to realize it is not really ex nihilo, but it still looks like it in many ways. The seed dropped in the ground disappears and from this “nothing” sprouts a plant.
Part of my appreciation for Rich Mullins’ music is that he seemed to share this naturalist / contemplative temperament. A line from his song “Here in America” sums it up:
And there’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see
But everywhere I go, I’m looking
Everywhere I go, I’m looking. Even in the desolate land of Iraq, I saw it. House Sparrows that came to scavenge crumbs. A fierce blue sky that only after months was traversed by one small cloud. A thunderstorm off in the distance with lightning dancing in all directions. In the beginning, God made and it was good. Much of it still is, even after millennia of sin and the effects thereof.
I leave you with the music video by Rich Mullins from which this post derives its title. It’s just an added bonus that it was shot on location in Ireland.