Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash

Luke Stocking: The world is full of God’s grandeur

  • October 3, 2021

It’s 4:30 a.m. and I cannot sleep. I am too excited. Same thing happened yesterday. I am sitting up in bed in a Comfort Inn in North Bay, Ont. My brother is beside me, also awake. In several hours we will head into Algonquin Park back country for four days in search of brook trout. It is supposed to rain the whole time. And yet, I am still excited.

What is it about this annual trip that leaves me like a kid who cannot sleep on Christmas Eve? It is the anticipation of four days intimately immersed in Creation — the first revelation of God. It is the beauty of the brook trout, the cry of the loon, the colours of the fall, the crackling fire, the company of family and the canoe cutting through the calm of the morning waters that rob me of my sleep.

I didn’t really know what camping was until I did my first one of these trips a few years ago. A back country canoe trip is not a walk in the park, especially when you are facing four days of rain. When you must cut your own wood, catch and cook your own food, fight the wind and spend large chunks of time figuring out how to keep yourself warm and dry — this too is the intimacy of immersion. Like our human relationships that can be strengthened through hardships and struggles, we can also come closer to nature when she makes us suffer.

“The World is Charged with the Grandeur of God,” says the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. This is what I feel. It is not just about looking in awe at the Algonquin colours. I feel it when I am giving thanks for the trout whose life I take, with whose flesh I nourish my own body. It is something I feel when my arms are aching after hours of paddling through the winds and waters of the lake or when the rain seems to never stop.

This year the fishing trip means I am missing the global climate strike taking place Sept. 24. Members of Development and Peace will be joining the Fridays for Future movement on the streets (and online as well). In my guilt (I won’t even have an Internet connection to join them virtually), I have been reflecting on the connection between being on the streets for the climate and my fishing trip. This is what I have come to — both things are acts of remembering.

To see and work towards a different future, we need to remember our fundamental connection to this Earth — that from dust we came and to dust we shall return. It sometimes feels to me that the whole exercise of our industrialized world has been marked by the sinful attempt to forget this. In our hubris we seek to liberate ourselves from the stuff of the Earth that we are made of. We treat the Earth as something separate from who we are and not as the very thing from which God created us. Hopkins continues, “Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.” We cannot remember, because we cannot feel.

The climate strikes are a collective act of remembering this fundamental connection. Millions of bodies worldwide are God’s creation coalescing together as a voice that shouts out and demands those in power to cease their forgetting and convert themselves.

Being in Algonquin, surrounded by beauty, is also a remembering. There is a reason why we use the phrase “getting back to nature.” When I am casting out into the waters, I am seeking to remember. The thrill of a trout taking your bait and electrifying your line as it bends your rod and runs deep is an answer to that search. The fish fights me, and the connection to the Earth becomes alive. It is a remembering that takes place not only in the mind but the whole of my body. Every fibre of you feels the truth of who we are and where we come from — the give and take of life in the mystery of God.

There are many fruits to this remembering; the most important though is hope. The source of that hope is the resiliency of God’s creation — the trout, the trees, the water and, yes, even us fragile and complicated human beings. 

(Stocking is Deputy Director of Public Awareness & Engagement, Ontario and Atlantic Regions, for Development and Peace.)

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