Sara Ward, OhIPL Director
This past year, I have spent many mornings on this porch, reflecting on my connection to creation. As a 2012 Fellow in the Green Faith Fellowship formation program, I have been encouraged to do this, to connect my faith with my call to care for this lovely place we call home, God’s Earth. It has been a transformational journey for me, mind, body and soul.
Remembering, it’s an act of recalling to mind. Re-connecting to parts of me stored in my memory banks and it is more than something only stored in my mind. These memories are also found in other parts of my body, through my senses and in my heart. I began to re-member my first sense of God’s presence in my life and I realized it was when I was held in our magnificent natural world. Being with, connected to, a part of the natural world made it a safe place for me as early as I can remember.
Growing up in Mansfield, Ohio in the 60’s was great. I think back now to the freedom that I had to roam the community between my home, the pool, and a place called Black’s Woods not far from our church. Now when I think about it, it was a remarkable time of my life. I must have had a guardian angel following me everywhere I went, both keeping me protected and gently revealing God’s beautiful creation all around me.
Richland County is known for its rolling hills, Malabar Farm, Kingwood Center and Mohican State Park. These are all places I spent time growing up with my family. What a way to experience the changing of the seasons. The backdrop of autumn leaves and snow sparkled winters, sledding and skiing down rolling hills and the springtime daffodils that lined our driveway are etched in my memory. My earliest memories in my sand box and our back yard connected me with nature. Mom’s flower gardens which surrounded the house and the lazy summer nights catching fireflies in my back yard can be recalled at a moments’ notice by a sound, a smell, a feeling or a thought.
Our family would travel to Michigan in the summers to spend a couple of weeks with our cousins at their cottage on Lake Huron. I can remember the clean smell of tall sappy Michigan pines on our walks to the country store for a bag of candy, and the smell of the hot sandy beach with the water lapping back and forth on the shore, bringing in treasures of Petoskey stones and shells from the deeper waters of the Great Lakes. My Grandfather “Baba” and I would walk up and down the shore hunched over, eyes to the ground collecting Petoskey stones. They were special finds, he would pick one up, eye it up close, then he would spit on it and rub it with his big ‘old thumb, give me a big grin and hand it over.
Growing up, I was surrounded by nature and people with a great appreciation for it. I think it just “sank in” for me. As a young adult, life got more complicated, busier with work and relationships, family and new expectations. The more time got away from me, the more I realized how much I missed the time I spent in nature. I began to realize that I had lost hold of one of my closest connections to God. For me, nature had become a place of connecting to peace and wonder, of hope and possibility and it was past time to reconnect, re-member it to my life. When our son Luke was old enough we began to take family vacations out west in the Rockies, skiing, hiking, camping, Arizona rafting along 220 miles of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, trips to the coasts, the Redwoods, Crater Lake in OR and a cruise through Alaska, and the Hawaiian Islands. The beauty of these treasures stays in my heart and mind without question.
I’ll never forget one trip that I took right after retirement in October 2007 to Santa Fe NM. My husband and I drove up into the mountains to a clearing high above the city lights one clear cool night. We got out of our car and it was pitch black around us. As we became acclimated to the surroundings I began to feel a sense of connection to the cosmos. I stretched my head up into the night sky and felt the stars coming to rest around my shoulders almost as if to engulf me. WOW! What an incredible sense of connection to the universe!
We traveled in 2009 to British Columbia and I was struck by how incredibly breathable the air was, and how clear the water. It was palpable and made me sad for how we had come to accept and not notice the air and water pollution in Ohio and the Midwest. I contemplate just how diminished nature has become by our acts of hubris. I wonder how much more can she take, how much longer can she renew and revive and I begin to realize that in the end she is so much greater than we are, so much wiser, so much stronger. I suspect that in one form or another, she will evolve; it’s us that may not be so fortunate.
Life in Ohio is nothing like the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Coast, the Redwood Forest and the Grand Canyon, and yet in so many ways, the peace of the rolling hills of Richland County, and the graceful farmland which surrounds our urban centers are all places of connection for me. My own backyard has become a sanctuary where I commune with the birds and butterflies, squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. Last summer, when I was pensively watering my garden a hummingbird came to visit and perched on my watering wand. She played and danced for me in the water and just took my breath away. Just that simple connection filled my heart with such joy and amazement; I was reminded of the mystery of the simple pleasures that if we are not careful, we can so easily miss each day.
On one such day, I was invited to commune with nature as I ate my lunch in a courtyard near the retreat center that I was attending. A plane flew overhead disrupting the serenity, followed a little later by a graceful, circling Hawk. I was inspired to write:
I invite YOU to share your reflection on how you began to connect your faith with care for God’s creation. We will post your reflection here on our “Your Faith…God’s Earth…Our Responsibility” blog. Send your thoughts to [email protected]