for the beauty of the earth

Tree Icon

I find it strange that when I hear the weight of the leaves rustle against each other outside my home, that something inside me reaches out, wanting to be included in the wind; wanting to feel that incredible, invisible, moving force on my face, together with the trees; that something inside of me wants to be in the thick of all that movement, soaking in the sounds that would surround me, watching little leaves brush against the other messily and compose this amazing, uplifting din.

I find it stranger that at the same time something in me cries out to stay indoors: a phone desperately needs charging, sheets need cleaning, the right attire needs to be put on, a table needed wiping, a text message needs replying, a news article needs reading…

And yet, almost always I would succumb to staying indoors, to continue to be left out and distinctly separate from the outside. Facebooking, arranging clunky glass items, tidying a mess that shouldn’t have happened, sifting through my chatgroups, or just lying on my bed, tired?

I have just started on a book, “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Steven Bouma-Prediger and the pages I am at currently drew unusual attention to the quiet conflict in my soul. I became attentive to this internal tussle – which always occurs when leaves outside are rustling.

Two pages into the first chapter and I’m on my knees.

I reproduce:

An ecological perception of place

Do you know where you are? Certainly you can state that you are on 12th Street or 10th Avenue, in Lansing or Lincoln or London or Los Angeles, in Oregan or Ontario, in the United States or the United Kingdom or the United Arab Emirates. But ecologically speaking do you know where you are? What is your ecological perception of place?

What is the soil around your home? Silty loam? Loamy sand? Sandy clay? Rocks and pebbles? Wet or dry? … What are five agricultural plants in your region? Corn, wheat, alfafa, beans, sorghum? And how long is the growing season? What geological events or processes have influenced the land in which you live?

Can you name five trees that live where you do? Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, bald cypress or western hemlock…? What about birds, resident and migratory?

As these questions pounded on me, I felt shame enter into my soul. Any answer I had was at best feeble. And I did not care (except maybe for the squirrel which is probably actually a tree shrew, and the stray cats).

However, the same was not true when I go to other places – New Zealand, as example. In New Zealand I drank in nature. I learned the names of the wild flowers I loved which the locals knew (Queen Anne’s lace), the places in which a beautiful calm stream formed out of the ground – I learned how it happened, I read about how fjords were formed. But I never had the same diligence or interest that I have back home.

I paid no attention to the place where I live and breathe and have my being.

I grabbed my laptop and bolted out the door, wanting to blog on the bench in the park outside. As I impatiently punched the keyboard on my old machine to awaken the correct writing app, I realized I had no wi-fi out here. Even then, outside, I was not fully present in my surroundings. Before long, mosquitos had approached me without me realising and left me with itchy little bumps. Had I had the remotest sense of the outdoors I would have prepared myself with some repellant, but in my awkward attempt, I forgot the formalities.

I am on a journey that I never realized I would be travelling. Nature, or as Bouma-Prediger prefers to call it, the earth, was never something I knew or was incredibly interested in – something so present and tangible that I missed it altogether. It was a latent desire that I continued to suppress.

But the last spiritual retreat I did, I wrote a surprising poem during a meditative time – it was a poem about the wind and the trees. It captured something that had always fascinated me, in a childlike, simple way. And this simple fascination led me to this book that I had always reminded myself to start on, only to find myself actually desiring to pick up to read.

I end with this song that has been on my heart. I wish they had a recorded version that is closer to my genre, but here it is:

  1. For the beauty of the earth,

for the glory of the skies,

for the love which from our birth

over and around us lies;

Lord of all, to thee we raise

this our hymn of grateful praise.

  1. For the beauty of each hour

of the day and of the night,

hill and vale, and tree and flower,

sun and moon, and stars of light;

Lord of all, to thee we raise

this our hymn of grateful praise.

  1. For the joy of ear and eye,

for the heart and mind’s delight,

for the mystic harmony,

linking sense to sound and sight;

Lord of all, to thee we raise

this our hymn of grateful praise.

  1. For the joy of human love,

brother, sister, parent, child,

friends on earth and friends above,

for all gentle thoughts and mild;

Lord of all, to thee we raise

this our hymn of grateful praise.

  1. For thy church, that evermore

lifteth holy hands above,

offering up on every shore

her pure sacrifice of love;

Lord of all, to thee we raise

this our hymn of grateful praise.

  1. For thyself, best Gift Divine,

to the world so freely given,

for that great, great love of thine,

peace on earth, and joy in heaven:

Lord of all, to thee we raise

this our hymn of grateful praise.


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