Our time this year in the Michigan northwoods is fast coming to a close. In the last couple weeks, gold-leaf and blaze-red leaves have fallen, rain has turned to snow that has flown (and stuck!) as heavy winds have blown, and temps have only occasionally struggled out of the mid-30’s. Thus, the canoe and quad have been stored, and, with most of the other closing chores also accomplished, the weather has usually chased us inside to conversing, reading or writing by the fire.
Reflecting, I find I’ve again received from this simple place what I have come for. Clearness. The quietness of our setting, the soul rest I’ve received here, the early winter-like conditions outside, and the quality of my reading have combined to bring blessing. Many of the cares I came with several weeks ago have seemed to evaporate as I’ve experienced once more the clarifying impact, the healing welcome, of the woods.
Yes, clarity and healing. After decades as a naturalist, I am still not certain what it is about nature (or about beauty in general, for that matter) that can provide such things for those who seek them there. As a Christian, the only thing I can surmise from it all is that God created it, and us, to be so. Nature is one of the agents, or, at least, one of the mediums God has provided by which people may seek clarity, finding peace with God, peace with others and peace within themselves. And I am content with that understanding.
One of my current reads is Parker Palmer’s latest, an interesting collection of essays, reflections and poetry titled On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old, which I am reading with a close friend. In typical Palmer fashion, it holds much to be considered by anyone, and that, despite the subtitle, not just for the aging.
Palmer is an accomplished Christian author, activist, founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal, and a Quaker. The concept of clearness is strong in the Quaker tradition, with an emphasis not only on personal spiritual clarity but on a clarifying discernment received in community through a tradition called, beautifully, a clearness committee. Hate committees? This is one worth its effort.
So as my time in the woods is coming to a close, it is no wonder that one of his poems has jumped at me off the page:
Alone in the alien, snow-blown woods,
moving hard to stay warm in zero weather,
I stop on a rise to catch my breath as the
sun, setting through bare-boned trees,
falls upon my face, fierce and full of life.
Breathing easy now, breathing with the earth,
I suddenly feel accepted -- feel myself stand
my own ground, strong, deep-rooted as a tree --
while time and all these troubles disappear.
And when (who knows how long?) I move
on down the trail and find my ancient burdens
returning, I stop once more to say No to them --
Not here, Not now, Not ever again -- reclaiming
the welcome home the woods have given me.
~~ Parker J. Palmer
And that, my friends, is the power of God’s good creation, and why it will keep me heading outdoors or back to places such as this all of my days. Join me.
~~ Get Outside,
RGM, October 19, 2018