“What inexpressible joy for me, to look up through the apple-blossoms and the fluttering leaves, and to see God's love there; to listen to the thrush that has built his nest among them, and to feel God's love, who cares for the birds, in every note that swells his little throat; to look beyond to the bright blue depths of the sky, and feel they are a canopy of blessing,--the roof of the house of my Father; that if clouds pass over it, it is the unchangeable light they veil; that, even when the day itself passes, I shall see that the night itself only unveils new worlds of light; and to know that if I could unwrap fold after fold of God's universe, I should only unfold more and more blessing, and see deeper and deeper into the love which is at the heart of all.” ~(Elizabeth Charles, Daily Strength for Daily Needs. Compiled by Mary W. Tileston)
Few things have been a balm during these pandemic years as much as time spent in nature. When we have been confined to our homes, most of us still had the ability to enjoy a stretch of outdoor space: a patio, a yard, a balcony. Even if we couldn’t leave the walls of our home, we could take solace in our animals or in our houseplants, how some of the most spindly and ill-cared for little plants keep growing. How the drive to live persists even when it feels like all the world around is degenerating.
Writing an essay each week this past year, I created a system for cataloging the topics covered, noting the main themes and references of each piece. The topic I return to most consistently is unequivocally “nature.” No matter how bleak our culture, our news, our nation’s outlook, nature is there reminding us of beauty, truth, love, peace, stillness, and trust. Contemplating nature helps us transcend the daily fresh delivery of frustrations and new, twisted sources of angst. It encourages me immensely to reflect that, as Elizabeth Charles states, if “clouds pass over” my life, “it is the unchangeable light they veil.” What solace to realize that “even when the day passes, I shall see the night itself only unveils new worlds of light.” Even in our darkest experiences, there is beauty to be found if we persistently look for it. The moon and stars on a warm August night are every bit as lovely as the sun’s warmth on the day just ended. They carry their own kind of loveliness.
In the greatest moments of anxiety, of questioning or doubt, my unshakeable belief that at the core of this world is love: that love is its impetus, its catalyst, its original seed and its source of fertilization, prevents me from slipping into a “Slough of Despond.” When the worst we are capable of, as humans, is megaphoning from the news or when circumstances on a personal level are strained and uncomfortable, within my spirit, I know that love prevails and will prevail even through this (whatever “this” is on that particular day).
Whatever vile ugliness humankind inflicts upon other humans or upon our planet, owes to our disconnection from love. This disconnection does not alter love’s nature or existence. And our persistent unawareness of that love and our disconnection from it, only perpetuates the devastation. I believe as infants we are all held in that love and aware of it. It is our constant companion and knowing. We become disconnected from it as we grow older, and humans hurt us, and the cares of life cloud the light of love. The solution is to remember that love is over all and to reconnect with it in our souls, right through to our bones.
To know that love is over and under and works through, beside, within, and without gives me incomparable peace. It is my daily joy to be reminded of this through the unnecessary beauty of an apple blossom, the nearly incomprehensible (and to the naked eye barely perceptible) singularity of each snowflake, the giant more-than-enoughness and extravagant beauty, exquisite order, and perfection to be found on this lush, resplendent, and now endangered planet. An ever present awareness of the unchangeable light of love, sometimes veiled behind clouds, provides an anchor of solace for my soul.
“Serene will be our days and bright,
And happy will our nature be,
When love is an unerring light,
And joy its own security.”
Today, how can you tap into the love “which is at the heart of it all?” What in nature speaks to you of unchanging realities like beauty and truth or urges you into stillness and trust in a divine order and love? How can you get nearer to nature this week, this month? What can you do in the coming weeks to give and be love to both our planet and to other humans?