The more I live in a city the more I dream of trees and streams and mountains. I feel alive in nature. Despite is unpredictability, there is something incredibly meaningful about feeling a leaf between my fingers and listening to a stream make its gentle way beneath my feet. John Muir, the champion of this rational once said:
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.
I could not agree more. There is so much to soak up in a forest or even a desert. The way life works is mysterious and enchanting. It is also destructive. Nature is truly cruel by our standards.
But within its borders the space can be truly sacred as well. Last year I was driving to a redwood forest to camp for the weekend. As I drove I passed a small natural preserve that looked over a series of large, wooded hills . The preserve was a path across the crest of a steep hill all covered in a tall, wheat like grass. I was instantly drawn to this path. I walked for a few minutes until the car behind me disappeared before lying down in the tall grass with a view of the green hills in front of me. The place was serene. The meadow was alive with chirping and movement. The grass waved back and forth and sang a very soft song as it moved with the wind. I chewed on a stalk and stared at the sky for a good long time before returning to my car.
I can think of dozens of such moments in nature like this that leave my soul quenched. I felt fed when I left; like I had stopped because something in me craved that moment and knew where to get what I needed.
We come from nature. We belong there. As much as we need each other we need to be in the sacred spaces that make us feel whole again.
I have not been to church regularly in many years. Even when I did it was not often at all that I felt anything like the divine. But in nature I feel so many wonderful things and can sense and touch the mysteries of life with my hands and see it with my eyes. Though I love the great cathedrals of Europe and the ancient places of the world, it is in quiet spots amongst ancient trees and by older mountains that I feel the presence of something greater still.