Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Am Grateful For Nature

This week I am thankful; not for what I possess – the luxuries of living in America usually taken for granted – but for the awesome power that the Earth has to inspire and settle me. It has been very cold in Portland recently. And, people are complaining and worrying about what the cold has in store for their inconvenience. It’s difficult to get to the store for that box of stuffing mix if there is too much snow mixed in with the usual rain.

Driving home from work yesterday, I was doing my usual ruminating about the lifeless, arid amalgam that we call culture. Why do I feel forced to work so far from home? There is no life in this suburban industrial zone, just concrete, steel, and faceless others behind tinted windows. I grumbled to myself about an automobile culture that sucks the life and health out of the human condition. As if being snapped out of a nightmare, there it was right in front of me; a beautiful natural vista to the East. The Columbia Gorge emanated with awesome beauty on a frigid, half-lit late autumn day. I could see it (experience it) only in split-second fragments of attention. My life would have been endangered otherwise. Too much attention to the elegant vision off to my side would have meant an ever-so-slight swerve into a freeway lane ruthlessly possessed by a truck laden with product no one really needs or wants. So, the truck, the freeway, the dashboard, my hands gripping the wheel – those were the things that held my attention. They were also the things on which I was ruminating and grumbling. Even so, I was able to swivel my head to the right to take in the view of the distant structures – houses, buildings, trees, hills - lightly covered with fresh snow. Just a flash of view, mind you, but one that overwhelmed my ruminating insistence.

Combined, I “saw” perhaps five seconds of awesome, natural phenomena during my twenty minutes of hustle and bustle commute. Yet, it is the self-constructed vision of those natural phenomena that stays with me. I remember it now as clearly as yesterday. It inspires me and settles me now just as it did then. Everything else about that horrible commute is kaput, purged from my consciousness.

The magic of the natural world to soothe, settle, and inspire us reminds me of a crying baby. I can’t help but believe that our environment is, in some way, crying out to us. Like the baby, it gets our immediate attention. And like the baby, it has the power to cure what ails us. My gratefulness for what nature provides reminds me that I need to listen more to what she is telling me in spite of the noise around me, which is beckoning me to ignore that which has real power to heal, restore, and transform.

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