Well before I was of an age to articulate it, I understood that there was something sacred about nature. An indescribable presence spoke to me and I, unscathed by the creeds of modern religion, learned to listen with reverence.
My appreciation for a Higher Being was stirred in the gardens of my birthplace. The vibrant colours of the many species of flowers and the busy, other world, of the insects that inhabited these gardens spoke to me of a whole world that was invisible to the ordinary eye. Life within life. I was captivated.
By the age of five, I began to wander beyond the garden gate, across the tilled fields of the farm that our home bordered, and into the woods beyond. There my true schooling began.
The woods were untamed – a tangle of old and new growth, thickly blocking any paths – and if I was careful enough to pick my way through, I came to a natural opening where a creek ran through. The water, like my soul, was clear and revealed every little secret.
For hours, I would squat and behold its wonders: tadpoles in the springtime, crayfish burrowing in the sand, and even the twigs that would be carried by the current, get stuck in the rocks and resist the flow of water until they were released again.
I discerned a certain pattern to the life I was witnessing: a sense of harmony and purpose.
Lucky enough to live in a country with four seasons, I absorbed the lessons of change, and learned to read the signs. The shifting wind, for instance, spoke of brooding weather, or the coming of spring after the winter’s slumber. I learned that life has cycles, and that after every winter comes the rains and new hope of brighter days.
Another of my favourite spots was deep within the woods, where the light beams trickled through the leaves like a cascade of fairy sparkles. Burrowing into the soft soil of the earth, I would sit quietly, patiently, until nature revealed herself to me. The woods, I discovered, much like the garden of my own backyard, housed a thriving population: insects, birds, animals, and reptiles – all whose existence seemed to rely on one another.
I wanted more than to be a part of it all – accepted, belonging: a child of Nature.
And then I lost my innocence.
I attended church, and learned that God lived in a church, and that I was not worthy of His love, and therefore; I needed to repent. I needed to repent because I was blemished by sin, and that felt dirty, and the earth that I so loved became undesirable, and bugs were icky, and nature was something wild to be feared.
I began to doubt my own understandings.
I learned to doubt me.
I lost confidence.
I no longer listened to the signs.
I learned to want for things, material things, anything, that would fill the void. Disconnected from the reverent, life felt out of control, something to be feared, not revered.
But nature has a way of reminding, even the most diehard non-believers, that there is more to life than we can see, and that a force, inexplicable, and sacred exists, and it came knocking on my windowpane tonight, with a message in the form of unseasonal gale winds and hail, and woke me from slumber.
And my soul answered, like the child I had once been, with a joyous recognition that despite all our theories, and doctrines, and delusions of educated knowledge, there still exists a life within a life: the Great Mystery that defies us and keeps us ever humble.