One of the projects for the Environment and Spirituality Committee at the Episcopal Church I attend was for everyone to write out in a few paragraphs about how the environment and spirituality connect for us. My first attempt (not shared with anyone) was philosophical. I wrote about the vastness of the wilderness, about nature’s strengths and its fragile state. I wrote about the interconnectedness. What I was attempting to do was to make the environment (or nature, which I use interchangeably) like a vision of God. What I didn’t do was make it personal to me.
One of my favorite prayers is a Native American Prayer called “Let me Walk in Beauty” – which begins:
Oh Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I almost took that to share, but decided, instead, to take to the meeting a cartoon done by Betty “Chmielniak” Grace (also of Missouri). It is of a man in a plaid shirt, baseball cap and pants standing outside the pearly gates looking into heaven depicted as clouds covered with trees. The caption reads “This is exactly how I pictured it!”
To me, NATURE is a glimpse at heaven here on earth. Whether it be the pristine streams of snow flowing down rocks until they form crystal lakes at the foothills of Mount Whitney, the sun rising or setting over an ocean, the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri less than 10 miles from my home, or the deer, hawks, wild turkeys, fox, coyotes, humming and every other type of bird in the region which have visited me in my own backyard.
MY SPIRITUALITY is my reaction and responsibility to that glimpse.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock
I am trying to learn how to step lightly on this planet. To appreciate and listen to what nature is saying, and to learn how to use only my fair share. That is why I am participating in Riot for Austerity. This is a group of people, mostly from the US, Canada, Australia and parts of Europe trying to reduce their carbon footprint by 90% of what the Average American uses. (You can find more info on these numbers at the Riot for Austerity link). It is helping me to be mindful of what I use and what I waste, of what I have and what I really need. To not take for granted how incredibly fortunate I am in this life to have access to food and clean water, and that changes happening in the world right now may drastically change this availability unless something is done.
As I limit my car trips, or decide to keep my central air turned off, or flip the switch on the power strip for my computer and printer every night, or “skip a flush,” or change out light-bulbs, or limit my weekly trash out-put to a bag or less, or unplug items I rarely use, I am doing some of what I can to be more in tuned to the earth, and learning to appreciate all that I do have.
As I water my tomatoes and watch them grow in my own garden, or buy produce from a local farmer, I am aware of the time and care it takes to provide real food.
I remember hearing a story of a young boy, who, when asked by his teacher to write out instructions on making a pizza, the boy started with “First you plant the tomatoes.”
So, as I hang my laundry out to dry this morning instead of putting in the dryer I will listen to the birds, watch the squirrels, perhaps even catch a glimpse of one of the larger creatures with whom I share outdoor space. I will thank the trees for the life-giving oxygen. Perhaps I will learn to sing a little more, play a little more, breathe, and appreciate. To me that is incredibly spiritual!