Nature calms the spirit

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Horses grazed in the fields, their gracefully curved necks stretching toward the ground. The once-green blades of grass were now brown and crunchy; they bowed down unable to stand in the crisp fall temperatures. Trees released their lifeless leaves to the ground so nature could bring more next season. The soil would gain healthy nourishment from those discarded leaves.

God makes all things to work together. If you look within and see how our bodily mechanisms operate, how days, nights and seasons flow, you see a familiar thread running through all of them.

I listened to a homily presented by a local priest on Sunday. Among other spiritual points, he compared leaves falling from a tree to death. He said, "Leaves never know when they will fall to the ground or fly off the branch. Nor do we know when we will fall."

Humans indeed are the same. One never really knows when he will fall, when God will call him home. No one else knows when life will begin or when it will end either. Just as those fallen leaves turn into mulch, our bodies will do the same unless they are preserved in some fashion. Our bodies follow the paths of nature.

"If you don't use it you'll lose it" is a familiar saying, and a true one. If people do not move their body parts on a regular basis, the various joints become immobile. Legs become stiff and muscles weaken. If our brains are not used, they too will shrivel and dementia will take over. If abilities and talents fail to be practiced, they too will go downhill. The same holds true for a mechanical engine. If it isn't used, it will rust and become immobile. If houses are empty, the buildings deteriorate more rapidly than if people lived there. If anything is not allowed to serve the purpose for which God created it, its ability to function will be impaired. Everything must keep moving.

When people retire, they frequently think they want to get away from people, stop all the stress of getting up every day and going to work. Sometimes one gives up his activities, moves away and dreams of sitting and looking at the stars and smelling the roses. That works for a while, but if he never takes on another commitment or finds a reason or purpose in his life besides just constant leisure, he too will stagnate.

As we continued driving that afternoon, looking at the scenery of nature's canvas, I felt my fatigue and stress recede. Merely watching the calm, easygoing attitude of nature in its element gave me permission to relax.

My mind left its clutter of what I had left undone and journeyed to a place of peace and tranquility and joy. The most pressing malady presently is that people try to overdo on a regular basis. We believe that if we fail to fill every minute we are missing something, not living up to our full potential or perhaps, we're just being lazy.

We haven't yet learned that it's all right to be like the trees swaying in the wind, the cows chewing their cud in the pasture or the horses grazing in the field. They have yet to learn that they need to worry about their daily bread.

Jesus often used nature to make points. He said to his disciples. "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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