Nature connects us to the Divine that calls to us. It is what I believe, not because of what religion I am or what God I believe in. It is because this earth knows only one Divine, and Nature is her manifest.
I also believe that nature embraces us during our hour of need. There is constancy in nature that speaks to the life that is inside me. It is healing. I remember an evening when my very young teen heart was terribly upset. The details of the issue have long since slipped from memory, but I still recall the embrace I received from the crooked yet majestic old oak tree in our mountain home when I climbed up her thick trunk and perched on one of her bent branches to sob into her bark. The tree cradled me and held me until I stopped the tears. A sense of connection, belonging, oneness; the presence of God. I felt renewed and restored.
The past three weeks we have had to muster every shred of fortitude and patience to ride out the global crisis of COVID-19. The outbreak of the novel virus is testing, tightening and loosening every aspect of our lives. We are told by government and health officials to heed and practice social distancing, self-quarantine and isolation from family and friends. There is fear and pain and uncertainty as we adapt to our new reality. Once again, I look to nature seeking consolation in these tough times.
I step outside of the home. It is at times like these when I notice strength in the smallest details of nature revealing their beauty. A spider’s silky web that glistens in the morning dew; the hummingbird hovering above my head alerting me to the empty feeder hanging on my front porch, a bird fluffing its feathers to bask in the warmth of the sun while another splashes in the bird bath, a caravan of ants, bees in and around the honeysuckle and the first caterpillar of the season.
I take a walk in the crisp cold spring air. The street is nearly deserted. There is a palpable sense of emptiness to it. The traffic, if any, is scant and unusually quiet. I stroll down the now silent streets of my city and the sound of my shuffled steps resonates off the smooth concrete. A squirrel scurries up the maple tree looking for nuts. The bougainvillea with its bright fuchsia flowers shows fresh leaves that unfurl and grow. Everywhere – buds, shoots, blossoms. Nature is alive and blushing. Each tree, each bush, each plant holds life that surface in deep hues of green. There is such comfort in my early morning walk in the rooted garden of earth.
I decide to drive to my next refuge: the beach. I am struck always by the vastness of the ocean. It stretches and becomes one with the horizon expanding to reach the sky. All around me, there is beauty – cliffs of rock, uninterrupted shoreline, crashing waves, gulls that race to scavenge food, crabs that crawl leaving patterns in the sand, sand that warms my feet. The sun and water lift me, and a gentle cool breeze encircles me like the arms of God. I am humbled by both the vastness and the minuteness yet empowered by the awe and endurance of God’s creation. I am renewed and restored.
At home I look outside my window. It is a beautiful evening. The San Gabriel Mountains loom, great giants ten thousand feet high, hovering over my day-to-day existence. These mountains stand, ageless. Though it is spring, residue of winter remains as I lose myself in the beauty of the peaks still covered with snow. The dark green grace of the pine trees gradually lose their distinctive contrast as the sun rays fade away, and the lavender hue of the mountain turns deep purple and switches into serene blackness.
There is such beauty that goes unnoticed in the natural manifest of God’s presence. It doesn’t mean that there is less suffering or pain or that it is felt less deeply. But if no one notices the strength in small details, surely large and overwhelming crises, panic, pain and despair will become our only reality. I find myself hopeful and grounded by the small (and large) beauties that connect me to the divine and speak to the life that is inside me. I am refreshed in spirit and mind and ready to love the world as is and help “bind up its wound.”