Recognizing God in nature

By  Lisa Petsche
  • August 6, 2009
{mosimage}For many of us summer is our peak time of interaction with nature. We spend more time than ever outdoors, enjoying activities such as gardening, visiting local parks, going to the beach, attending sporting events, picnicking, hiking, cycling, attending outdoor concerts and festivals, stargazing and vacationing in the woods or by the water. We also enjoy the many fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables available locally, some perhaps from our own garden.

Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when our consumption of — and damage to — Earth’s resources tends to be highest, due to often excessive lawn and garden watering and car washing, increased car travel (day tripping or driving back and forth to the cottage) and use of pesticides, gas-powered lawn mowers, air conditioners and motorboats, among other things.
Like any healthy relationship, our relationship to the natural environment should be one of give and take, but some of us are mostly taking.

In today’s technological, consumer society, it’s all too easy to become disengaged from nature. The result is that we don’t appreciate and care for it the way we should.

In a workshop I attended a few years back, Fr. James Profit, S.J., co-ordinator of the Ecology Project of the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice in Guelph, Ont., pointed out that since God reveals Himself to us in all of creation, our lack of respect for natural resources constitutes a denial of our relationship with our Creator. He termed this “ecological sin.”

Summer is the perfect time to take stock of our relationship with the natural world, reflecting on our attitude and especially our behaviour towards the sacred, life-giving resources that have been entrusted to us.

For instance, do we make an extra effort to “spare the air,” especially during smog advisories, through practices such as minimizing car trips, avoiding engine idling, setting our air conditioning temperature a few degrees higher and minimizing the use of gasoline-powered equipment such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers and chain saws?

Do we carpool to and from sports events and other activities?

Do we take measures to conserve water, by using a pool cover or collecting rain water, for example? Do we avoid perfectionism regarding the hydration of our lawn and the cleanliness of our vehicles?

Do we tolerate a small percentage of weeds or pests and research organic solutions to significant lawn and garden problems?

Do we buy locally grown and produced food as much as possible?

Do we teach our children to appreciate nature in our own backyard, setting up a bird feeder, growing vegetables, planting a tree and monitoring its growth, studying insects or stargazing together?

Do we engage in outdoor family activities such as hiking, cycling, canoeing, camping and visiting farms, conservation areas and wildlife sanctuaries? And do we take care to heed the naturalist’s motto, “Take nothing but memories and pictures and leave nothing but footprints”?

Do we provide drinks in recyclable or reusable containers (preferably the latter) for picnics, hikes and sporting events?

Do we teach our kids that all littering and dumping is unacceptable, and act as a good role model? (One of my pet peeves is the litter on and around sports fields.)

This summer, as we spend time in nature, let’s strive to experience our surroundings with all of our senses, allowing the Earth to speak to us.

Let’s start by slowing down, substituting walking or cycling for driving and canoes or pedal boats for motorboats.

Let’s really listen to the leaves rustling in the breeze, the birds singing in the trees, the loons calling on the lake, the crickets chirping in the grass, the waves lapping at the shore or perhaps the profound silence, depending on our location and the time of day.

Let’s study the intricacies of a flower, follow a monarch’s flight, watch clouds drift by.

When we commune like this with nature, we’re filled with awe and feel at peace. We connect with our Creator in a fundamental way.

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