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Posts Tagged ‘God’

It’s often noted that the many who support abstract concepts, like ‘protected wilderness’ and “Nature” as being separate from human life, actually live far away from either protected wilderness or Nature. The many who see Nature as a value often live in places where wilderness or Nature is not, as in large urban corridors and concrete valleys of city and building, surrounded by human construct. Or it is not thought of at all, as inconsequential and exotic as the animals housed in zoos.

Those who are fortunate enough to live, whether by choice or fate, in the midst of Nature have a different relationship to it: For one thing, Nature is not abstract.  For some, it is living in Eden or paradise. But for others, familiarity can breed contempt:  living amid Nature is living in a daily reminder of all that must be done to “survive against the elements”.

So we are left with Nature in the abstract, valued or seemingly inconsequential, or Nature as neighbor, appreciated or something to be battled vaingloriously, proving we are up to the age-old match.

So how, in these possibilities does consumption or care of Nature come in to our human experience? Each are auto-behaviors, auto- in that we often don’t think about how we choose to interact with Nature, local or wilds. Either we see and care, or feel something for the habitat supporting us, or we see and consume., ignoring or even just not even feeling or thinking about what we are doing.

We thrive in community and our survival has taught us how to survive in community and in commune with our habitat, in a perhaps today unnoticed rhythm and pattern of call and response. Nature calls — we see storm clouds or notice the weather — and we respond, knowingly or not. For some of us, we respond with a willingness of heart and exhilaration of being at one with our natural habitat: we enjoy the relationship of the call and feel our way to our response. For many others, we react in age-old ways I doubt such are aware of; I’ve long marveled at the ‘instinct for survival’ I see in my local supermarket, when folk told of snow clouds on the horizon by the weather service and a bite to the air sends people in for piles of toilet paper rolls. Honestly, it’s the one aisle immediately sold out when snow of any depth is forecast in my city.

What we are talking about is, simply, caring. Caring to be in relationship of call and response rather than in our current Culture of Consumption of our natural habitat, whether near or far away and abstract in our thinking from moment to moment.

But I believe care starts wherever we are, and creating a Culture of Care, moving us away from our Culture of Consumption, is what we do best and is when we are at our best as part of the mammal species.

I know, this isn’t anything new.

The most simple and profound changes rarely are lightening-strike new, or a giant leap. They are steps, small and while securely holding onto handrails, whether in space or in the universe of our hearts and psyches.

Humans are good at taking these steps; I wonder if step-taking are what we do best, using our instinct and intuition to lead us, step-by-step to understanding of that which we didn’t a moment before.

The steps to a Culture of Care, using heart and instinct to care in a responsive relationship for that which we may not experience each day — like wild areas, or wildlife, grand vistas and yet unknown species cute or not, and like the imperceptible web that holds our life and lives together in a thriving habitat— begin with the smallest of steps:

Wonder.

In both senses of the word.

I wonder how that pigeon survives here.

I wonder at the realization it survived the storm and finds any food  to eat at all, much less a place to nest  . . .

I wonder how that polar bear will make it to shore, through thousands of miles of water, as the ice melts?

I wonder at the amazing fact she leads her young to the very same spot for food each year.

I wonder how that tree survives in the grate in the sidewalk.

I wonder that, surrounded by cement, it finds enough nutrients and water to grow so tall.

I wonder how the elephant is able to find water in a drought, or senses when danger is near?

I wonder, I marvel, that such an animal finds a way to survive at all . . .

I wonder why the air is so sweet and fresh today?

I wonder that air is breathable at all. . .

If we live in the midst of wonder, in any given moment, we are not in a moment of consumption, of taking for once and for all time for our own gain.

Yes, consumption can suggest taking for nourishment, but there’s a sense of limit and desperation to the whole of the word, whether as an individual consuming what s/he feels is needed (so others don’t get it) or as a society consuming without awareness — or wonder — where it’s all coming from. As in ‘it’s all for me’; just even the thought of consumption suggests “better grab it while you can,” even though we know from all of our childhood fairy tales and teaching stories that those who share end up receiving more.

Interestingly the word consumption, at its root, means ‘taking, e.g. for granted,’ according to my delightful book Partridge’s Origins. The root of sumption, in all its Latin forms, means: to take, and to take by choice.

Add the ‘con’ prefix and, Mr. Partridge explains, the word consumption means “to take completely, to devour, to destroy.”

Used as a name for a disease from which humans frequently died in earlier years, consumption, this makes sense. And it was always tragic.

When we apply it to the Culture of Consumption of the last  two centuries and especially the one in which we live, it’s a chilling, if accurate, revelation. We take, we devour, we destroy Nature.

I don’t know how we ended up in a Culture of Consumption, but I know it was no doubt the result of small steps taken without wonder, and added to with exponential growth in population and possibility for ‘new and improved’ product to consume.

I also know that the steps to a Culture of Care are equally small, immediate, and begin with something we each can do, and do well: The steps are engaging in a response to a call, taking in a moment of wonder by you, and you, and you, and we’ve begun. A Culture of Care is underway, little step by little step.

Try it. Turn away from your reading and look at something given to you by Nature, whether apple, cat, dog, beloved friend, or tree, insect, flower, or even for the deeply Nature deprived, look at the sky. Or even just try to see the air which envelopes you or marvel at the water in a glass on your table,

What do you wonder about right now? What small observation can you take, in wonder and wondering, that Nature continues to enfold you in all that is needed for life and living? Can you marvel and feel the wonder at what you see or at that which calls you and gives to you from Nature, whether a change in the wind, or a brilliant drop of rain? Or even the knowing that somewhere far away perhaps, a wild habitat simply is, breathing, living, in cacophony and an intricate web of relationship, perhaps sending the cool change of breeze to you where you are now?

The steps to care — and to creating a Culture of Care — are ours to take.

There: if you wondered even for a moment how beautiful is this bit of Nature, abstract, isolated, or abundantly around you, you’ve just begun.

© 2013 elizabeth darby

Wonder

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“Your visit may be marred by tragedy if you violate park rules. Law enforcement rangers strictly enforce park regulations to protect you and the park. Please help keep our contacts with you pleasant by paying special attention to park regulations and avoiding these problems . . . “

Rules are the invisible barrier between humans and Nature, writ large in the park information given to the nearly 3.5 million visitors each year who visit  Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

“Yellowstone is a wilderness filled with natural wonders that are also potential hazards. There is no guarantee of your safety. Regulations are strictly enforced to protect you and the park’s resources.”

My teenager is singing Sondheim’s “Everbody Says Don’t” as we drive from Yellowstone into Teton National Park and on the way pass numerous park signs on our attempt at a great but short American car trip; we each can hardly wait to get to the National Forest just a bit south to happily splash barefoot in the cool waters of the Hoback River (and irritating the nearby fly-fishermen, I admit) to get away from the crowds and to ‘engage’ with a Nature that feels accessible if not actually relevant, rather than this ‘do not touch’ experience of Nature protected in the national parks.

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Gratefully found and borrowed from Yellowstonegate http://www.yellowstonegate.com/2011/10/no-boiling-live-fish/

We are passing families breaking the rules, going off the trail to have their kids pose behind the Welcome to Yellowstone NP sign for the family photo op. They are clearly seeking the happy memory souvenir of their own childhood car trip images, but I notice these kids aren’t necessarily grinning on cue. It’s a rebellious lot, this generation, unwilling to preserve the image of a family car trip as my generation did with the requisite wave and grin. I ask my daughter if she, too, wants the photo op to memorialize our trip and she responds wryly that she could have seen Old Faithful on the cam web of the park website rather than watching people line up 6-deep on the boardwalk to watch the sploshes.

“And the hype!!,” she says with exasperation. She leaves the thought there as I wondered if it had been my hype or the park’s, or a larger, American hype of fondness over the car-trip to Nature in Yellowstone National Park to which she was referring.

Ah, Yellowtone. Hyped since 1872 to tourists, I note, remembering that this is Nature with tourism. Hyped to keep people not living near it valuing it in order that it be protected from private development by people, decade after decade; the road-access areas of the parks are a way in, an Ambassador of Nature to the public, for the millions of acres set aside that the public doesn’t normally see and therefore might not find relevant to their lives.  Hyped to keep it — Nature — in the game of the American mind or at least a relevant part of the discussion of ‘what is great about America’. Without the ambassador Nature become invisible; with the tourism, Nature stays in the picture, so to speak. Full circle.

The rules are necessary because we don’t know how to behave in Nature, from feeding animals truly wild (yes, it happened a day we were there, a preschooler pushed into the picture with the bison by goading parents wanting another photo op. It turned out okay, thanks to a park bus driver who yelled a warning) to taking a bath in the hot springs (a warning in the tourist information but thankfully no takers, so far this summer.)

We had sat on the veranda of the gracious old Old Faithful Inn, feeling the ghosts of turn-of-the-century tourists strolling about in hats and large skirts, as we waited the 88 min for Old Faithful geyser to blow. I was eying the out-the-door line for ice cream while my daughter wondered why it felt like Stonehenge where crowds of hundreds also stood 6-deep, all gazing with expectation and cameras at the ready, to one central spot. We wondered in retrospect what they were waiting for at Stonehenge; at least here was an action shot provided by Nature.

A woman from New York conversed with us on the porch, having spent 3-days-so-far on a bus from South Dakota, taking her elderly mother to see Yellowstone for once in her long life, we were told. “She could care less if she sees another geyser at this point,” the woman laughs with us. Indeed, the mother was inside eating lunch ignoring the ticking minutes to The Moment, and the daughter quipped the atmosphere around us felt like New Year’s Eve in Times Square, with the crowds and the waiting and then with pictures taken, the shuffle back home. “You always think, ‘I could have watched it on TV,'” she muses. But then anticipation rises in the gathering crowd with a small splosh from Old Faithful. “Do they at least sound a horn or something before it goes, so we know when to start taking pictures?” It was funny. Really funny. And it was so far from relevant to our daily lives; it was a good-time.

The magic and mystery of Nature that the 1800s tourists might have felt in this far-away-from-civilization wilderness seemed gone. Knowing now Old Faithful  is part of a system of a giant underground caldera that is predicted to, someday any day now, make my home of the Rocky Mountains West a geologic memory, the watching of it suddenly felt a bit like knowing too much. It felt suddenly akin to what the required sex ed class does to the romantic notion of “bff love” in middle school, at once fascinating and vaguely unsettling.

Is magic and mystery needed to make Nature more relevant to us?

I wanted to make a last effort to engage daughter with the Nature behind the zoo-i-ness of the park before we left the boundary, the Nature that is just behind the signs and the rules, the Nature that is at once protected but also wilderness and a very wild home of grizzly bear, moose, elk, wolves, is out of man’s control, and is the last, the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states. But these are just facts and facts don’t engage the soul or the senses.

I asked her to ‘just for fun’ connect to what it would feel like if she saw the beauty of the wilds in the park as what some call “God’s handiwork” or “the face of God”, or as with Native American culture, for her to try out seeing God(s) in the many facets of Nature that are around every curve in this beautiful, protected wild area. I asked her to use her imagination . . . and her heart.

She was quiet for a time.

I wondered for a moment where such a crazy idea came from in me, and then I heard the voice of my own father saying in the tone of voice he reserved for reading great stories as we stood looking at the park when I was a little girl: “Man is just a visitor here . . .” he said mysteriously, as if the mountains were Val Halla, the land of the Gods, and we mere mortals had to be Heros to last in the wilds where God or Gods roamed.

“If you can’t create it, don’t destroy it,” he added often as we’d head to the Ranger talks under a sky full of stars.  This from a not obviously religious man who loved Nature and is a self-described “recovering Christian” as the result of a too-strict church-going childhood. When I was a child, he gave me the every-Sunday-morning choice (choose one) of driving through the beautiful mountains here in Colorado or going to church, as to him they were a similar destination: a place to connect with what man can’t create.

But the mystery, the engagement of the imagination, the teaching of the intangible, how is that communicated? From a sense of mystery about something so ineffable? From an expression of ‘value’ by a parent? Or equally the time spent splashing in creeks as we did, too, when I was a child; it was the ‘treat’ at the end of the day of driving or short hike. Or isn’t the transmission of ‘importance to me’ from parent to child also often grounds for rebellion rather than a kind-of-inherited reverence for that which is valued? What is it that provides the relevance and the connection?

I wondered if the woman from New York would take her wry humor, joy, laughter, endurance, and pictures, and in the power of telling the Story of her trip, suddenly feel the value of Nature, the relevance of the experience of Nature, to her New York life? And what of the tourists we saw from India, Asia and Europe — what connection did they take home with their pictures and their stories?

Whether my daughter was humoring her crazy mom with her moments of silent reflection, or connecting ‘for fun’ with a different view of Nature as sacred (or both), I’ll never know but I do know she’s a good, good kid willing to expand her heart and soul and give such nutty requests a faithful try. She knows the importance of imagination; it’s what makes life interesting and creative, magical, and yes, engaging.

“Yes,” she finally said quietly. “It is different. It’s so … really beautiful.”

And then with a turn of the bend of the Snake River, we were out of the park with the forested Hoback River waiting just 20 min beyond the human circus of Jackson’s Hole.

With wet legs and sighs of relief, we engaged for a time in a now very relevant Nature. Who cannot connect with clear cold mountain waters, the shade of spruce trees, and the fresh air of forest on an 85-degree day and hours of traffic and driving behind us?

Magic, mystery, reverence, imagination, and clear, cold water. Nature was returned to relevance from behind its protecting rules for a lovely hour or so. Now how to carry it home without pictures, if not in our souls? And a story to tell in the future.

 

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© elizabethdarby 2012

Each morning, in my middle-of-city existence, I hear blue jays coming to check out my back-yard banquet (to them) table where nuts and fruits and seed are placed throughout the year. It is a daily ritual and they often arrive, blue-white sirens which awaken the world, at the banquet table,

um, before I do.  

 

I hear them.

They arrive at first with excited calls — the day is dawning, I muse — and they’re heading over from wherever they nest at night to a feast.

 

Then, upon arrival, the pitched cry goes a bit shrill when there is no seed waiting, and the calling grows louder and faster and a bit sharp and edgy. It feels a bit pushy, but truly I have no idea why; it’s just the frequency of the sound of the call and the rest is imagination. Nonetheless, I feel I understand them as I listen, for the call changes with my arrival with seed. Then there is a bit of silence and after a few moments, the excited call, again, as they head off to the next feeding station on the other side of a street somewhere beyond. If there is seed, then the excited call continues for a bit before they wander off to the other potential somewhere nearby regardless of my offerings. The jays always circle back around to my table throughout the day; if it was empty earlier, they’re back in a couple hours, with the same calls, the same pattern, and the same excitement. 

When I hear them on their way, I often find myself saying quietly, “Yes, yes I’m coming. Hang on. . . .” whether willing exhausted eyes to open or stopping in daily work to make sure I respond — bringing seed out and aware of the flicker of wing and blue as the jays hide briefly while I come out the door.

 

Respond.

It is a conversation.

 

At least it feels so to me, for they don’t ‘hear’ me respond, but I know the calls so well, I can hear the changes in sound based on my opening the door. I can feel their darted-looks as they sense or hear (not sure which) my digging at the seed on my back porch to bring it out, as they wait with all the other birds and squirrels assembling for the banquet to appear. And I can hear the calls change when I don’t respond, when I don’t take action with seed in hand.

 

It is a conversation, whether of sound or sense or dance of movement between us.

It is a “conversation” because we are aware of each other, and one of us (at least) I know is listening and responding to the other, for it is me who is responding — usually with joy, delight, and care and wonder — to the call.

 

It’s an ancient one, this call and response, and like any sacred ceremony based on call and response in any culture; it’s a call to connection with each other and with that unseen but tangible to the feel web that connects us. 

 

As I begin the work of imagining what a paradigm shift to a Culture of Care for Nature looks like and feels like — and how to nurture it —  I’ve wondered where such a Culture of Care begins. Maybe even — no, especially — I’ve wondered how it begins.

 

And then I heard my “response” to a conversation from Nature.

 

If we are actively caring for someone, whether someone we love or someone with whom we care enough to be in relation, we listen to him/her/them, don’t we?

 

We witness his/her/their lives and their perceptions of reality; we make ourselves aware of their habits and challenges, joys and urgencies.

 

We create a connection of care by responding to what we hear and see from them and in them.

 

We are actively connecting in conversation and it is experienced, by at least one of us, as care.

In active connection we respond, “I care what is happening; I care what you say; I care what you think and feel, if not also care about what you yearn for and for your health and well-being.”

 

If you listen to Nature as a conversation, wherever you are in this moment, what would you hear?

 

Is there a pattern you’ve noticed but disregarded?

 

Is there an urging to action that you’ve felt, but set aside to later?

 

Have you responded to the conversation calling to you from all around, whatever beloved you are hearing at this moment, whether Spirit, beloved Companion, or a fellow in Nature?

 

By entering into conversation, we witness, we connect, and thus we begin to care.

 

What do you hear?

 

Do you respond?

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© 2011 Elizabeth Darby; a View from a place called Home, UK
All rights reserved; please contact me before reposting as a courtesy.

Possession

Possess

Possessed

To be

Taken Over

Whether by God or by Human or by demons . . .

Funny how such a word <possession> has so many possibilities.

Earth: Sacred/Possession

When I wrote the title for this blog and the forthcoming book project, it just seemed like the Right Question.

And I’m finding there is nuance to it.

Does Possession in my project’s title mean  possession by God, or of God?

By humans or of humans?

Is the Earth, the land of earth, the inhabitants, habitat, place of our lives a thing owned — in which case are we also ‘things’ when we are taken over as in the common use of the word ‘possessed’ in the spiritual sense?

Are we possessed by the Land as it defines us, as in where we are born, how we identify our soul or personality’s substance (as in “I’m from _______” and thus it defines our very Self as individuals, families, histories and cultures, not to mention our dreams, destinies and wealth or power?

When I envisioned the title, the book and the hoped-for curriculum emerging from this project, the immediate use of Earth as Possession was — at least for a moment — clear to me:

Earth as possession is something someone owns, despite cultures throughout time and place which argue it is impossible to ‘own or possess’ the Land itself. Yet whenever we make an object of it, and buy and sell turf or fight wars over it, we reduce Earth, the Land, to a possession. Is this what we choose to do? Is this sustainable, this perception of our habitat as a possession?

But in going deeper, it is not so clear this concept of Habitat, Land, Home, Earth and how our language defines our relationship with it.

Back to Eric Partridge’s Origins for help:

L potis

a master of (especially property);

has a derivative possidere, literally to sit as master of, to make oneself master of,

to occupy as an act of possession —

Ah, but there’s more to this. The spiritual sense of ‘possession’ as  a demonic force apparently didn’t come into common use in English until the 1530’s. More on that in a subsequent post, but historians will recognize the time as one of religious upheaval in England, when monasteries were ripped down and “witch” trials against followers of the goddess Diana in Spain and its colonies in the wilderness of the New World were underway. A dark time when open engagement with God’s creation was suspect… But more on that later.

According to Partridge, ‘possession’ in the 1400s had a sense of “to have and to hold” as in a bridegroom unto beloved. Power-holder, yes, but the spiritual sense of ‘possession’ was yet in terms of husbanding and the clear connection to the sacred with the symbolism inherent in bridegroom as used in biblical terms.

Is there yet more to this curious concept of possession? Yes, as always a contradiction:

n posse

to have power, to be able to [do something],

 especially exercising one’s ability or mastery or power

A root of possession is ‘being able to master or power’ and it is this relationship we all enter into every moment of every day when both thinking and especially not thinking about how our land, our Earth, sustains us. This is not a bridegroom coming to ‘husband’ a land, but something much darker.

And yet there is more: the idea of Earth being possessed by God and, as Psalm 24:1, thought to have been written about 1000 BC, goes: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is : the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein . . . ”

In this engagement, we and the Earth, all of everything, is a possession of God’s; there is no distinction between humans and God’s Creation as the new Pope Francis evokes in his early homilies, asking all of the world’s people, regardless of religion power or mastery, to care for all of God’s Creation. Earth as Sacred/Possession.

But there is still more:

Hidden among the historical roots of this L posse and L potis, is also, perhaps most importantly, the root of the word we know as possibility.

That is, the personal power to make something happen.

And, as we know, there is great possibility if —

— If we define our tomorrows feeling  the Earth to be our Home, our Habitat, our Garden for our children and engaging with it under the mastery of our careful interconnectedness.

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“Sacred, L sacer.

…also in Etruscan (the probable origin).

. . . Sacer has derivative v sacrare, to treat as, to render, sacred,

whence Of-F sacrer, ME sacren, pp sacred, whence the adj sacred…

Also from L sacr– comes sacrarium, a shrine, a small chapel…”

Eric Partridge’s Origins, 1966

 

It is interesting to note that idea — that the root of the word sacer in Latin came to us from Etruscan.

What we know of the Etruscan religion  is a belief in “a universe controlled by gods who manifested their nature and their will in every facet of the natural world as well as in objects created by humans,” where man was integrated into the sacred whole of the Earth. (Robert Guisepi, Etruscans, A History of the Etruscan people including their cities, art, society, rulers and contributions to civilization, 2002 at http://history-world.org/etruscanreligion_and_mythology.htm)  “Roman writers give repeated evidence that the Etruscans regarded every bird and every berry as a potential source of knowledge of the gods and that they had developed an elaborate lore* and attendant rituals for using this knowledge.”

And this is the root of the word we have in English that is Sacred:

Nature as source of knowledge of the gods.

It would seem the question of Earth as Sacred was not in doubt for myriad peoples throughout the world, including what would become known as the Western Civilization tradition. *And I’m reminded of a time speaking with a fellow who happened to be Northern Cheyenne, who reminded me that ‘one man’s lore is another’s beliefs’.

So to explore how the Earth is considered sacred shouldn’t make us squeamish. Or even embarrassed.

Yet bring up a title such as this blog’s and the coming book (as well as the hoped-for course and curriculum for our children — see the newly added About the Book page here), and the first response I’m met with is:

“Really?”

It is accompanied by a side-turn of the eyes, a shrug, a look over the shoulders and an edgy body posture suggesting the listener is a bit nervous I’m about to say something, well, embarrassing about God or gods or meaning or use of natural resources. . . . all as if to say:

“Let’s not go there. Let’s quantify. Let’s separate ourselves, man from Nature. Let’s not do that god-talk stuff as we approach a discussion of ‘highest use’ of natural resources and  a sustainable meting out of our habitat …

“It’s too, well, crazy.”

Yet the moral beliefs, our humankind Story, the explanations for why things are, which humans have developed out of the deepest longing of our hearts to help us to make sense of our existence and  our relationship with the mystery of how this whole thing began — creation or Creation — across the world such Story has some reference to the Earth as being sacred, a place where we better understand God or gods, where man is integrated into the whole of it.  Somehow.

So that’s why sacred — or Sacred — is part of the consideration of the habitat in which we live and on which we depend for our oxygen, water, minerals, food, inspiration, pharmacies… shall I go on?

I’m far from the first to suggest that if we perceive a place as Sacred, we treat it differently.

Have you, your children, or your community, explored this notion recently?

If so, drop me a line and tell me how!

It’s all part of the Story that we need to communicate to our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It is the time of Lent.

For many across the world, it is a time when a person of God is in the wilderness . . .

. . . searching for voice,

. . . listening for knowledge,

. . . questing for life,

. . . strengthening for soul,

. . . praying for guidance,

. . . aching for nurture, perhaps even for solace,

. . . searching for the face of God,

. . . and finding sustenance.

Opal Creek, Courtesy of USFWS/David Patte

Opal Creek, Courtesy of USFWS/David Patte

Is God in the wilderness?

Is God the wilderness?

Our wild lands remaining are but remnants of the garden created.

Yet they are a source of all of the above. Still.

With such an ancient and most holy tradition of searching for the face of God in the wilderness, how did later peoples come to view the wilds as the home of the darkness, the Enemy, the one who destroys?

And how have we come to become the destroyer of such a garden?

Full of darkness or light, perceived danger or received sustenance, wild is wild.

It is uncontrolled, like God.

It is unpredictable, like God.

It can be breathtaking . . .

and it can be renewing,

like God.

The wilderness is the first, only, and ultimately the last source of nurturing, knowledge, sustenance

—and perhaps solace —

as we face ourselves in this time of reflection.

What face will we see when we do so?

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Why is it we call ‘Natural Disasters’

Acts of God?

Does is mean that, for a moment, we see Nature as being part of God?

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