As part of my research for my project on my spiritual connection to nature, I immersed myself in some of the greatest mentors I knew on the topic. I read Wendell Berry’s reflections on the changes of society and resonated with the need to connect to a sense place in order to feed our desire to belong.
I dug into Barbara Brown Taylor’s “An Alter in the World”. A book that inspired me to make a conscious decision to open my eyes to the holiness in the ordinary. To cherish and bear witness to the struggle and the beauty of those I come into contact with, no matter how fleeting, on a daily basis. The book also reminded me of the sacred moments I have encountered- and gave me a ritual connection to sacred moments to mark the spots that hold meaning.
Mary Oliver’s poetry and her essays on nature soaked into me. I was often feeling the pressure of my next steps in life, or my self-imposed deadlines and I loved sinking into her observations of the life around a small pond. She pays such attention to detail of the smallest creatures. I often felt transported to the small frog pond and hidden lake of the home I grew up in. The sky there was always teeming with dragonflies, bees and butterflies, the lily pads and wild sweet grasses were always encroaching, and if I could spare the time to lie stomach down on the dock and stare into the murky water, I’d be rewarded by spotting the sunfish scurrying below the surface. It was like a prescription lens adjustment, as all manner of activity came into focus. Mary Oliver would describe in detail a snapshot of a crane or a heron, and I would remember the countless times I would gaze transfixed at the Great Blue Heron that made its home somewhere nearby. I would watch it standing beside the pond with its prehistoric frame barely coming into focus in the mist and morning fog. My childhood home was a complete ecosystem made up of forest, fields, lake and swamp. Mary Oliver’s reflections remind me I had the privilege to explore it all.
Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass” brought awareness to the truth that my life has grown wider over this year of my Ecofaith internship. She is a botanist who melds the worlds of science with human connection and indigenous wisdom. Wall Kimmerer balances thoughts on trauma, destruction and legacy, noting the human condition of our culuture of consumption, while also sowing hope for restoration of the land.
I studied Sociology in college and several of my professors emphasized the need for a scientific, unbiased approach to research and the study of society. I learned that if I chose to continue my education and become a sociologist, I would be committing to compiling observations and data and then stepping away from it. Although I can function in the scientific world of statistical date and scientific inferences, I always end up dropping it all for the chance to engage in human connection and working towards solutions. I felt a kindred spirit with Robin Wall Kimmerer’s work. She makes it clear that native wisdom holds scientific knowledge and she openly grapples with gaining respect for concepts of earth care. I have found that my love of sociology and my love of nature are interconnected. The hikes that I feel the most engaged with are ones where trails lead through the quiet woods, through riverbeds and along hillsides then drop onto residential roads where I can hear lawn mowers and smell laundry. The trails will then wind up hill again, aside rushing waterfalls and creeks, until I hit a sweeping vista through the trees of the great expanse of Lake Superior. Once at the top I am in awe of the many ways the water flows into the lake- the creeks, waterfalls, and giant snaking rivers. I love this snapshot of life in all of its grandeur after spending the majority of the hike immersed in the trail directly in front of me. I love the view of a thriving and bustling community with winding roads and smokestacks and industry, after so much time myopically focused on my own street or house or the minutia of my own life.
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