life · nonfiction · spirituality

Nature’s Divinity

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.

 

T

aging · culture · nonfiction · spirituality

Questioning

Every Sunday, dressed in our church clothes (matching dresses that mom had sewn herself) we girls were ushered off to service.  Dad rushed us so that he could get a decent parking spot – one that would permit a hasty exit when it was all over.  He didn’t want to waste his day hanging around that place any longer than he had to.

At eight years of age, I marvelled at how different everyone was on this day.  The crabby old lady from next door, who spent all week terrorizing the children of the neighbourhood, arrived in formal attire, with her little pillbox hat and matching gloves, and sweetness plastered across her face.  Another neighbour, who everyone knew drank too much and beat his children, was greeted as if he himself was free of sin.  On Sundays, I observed, we all became new people.

I chose to sit in the main church for the sermon as I never quite got the concept of Sunday School.  Seemed to me we never learned anything, and most days we just coloured pictures related to some story that made no sense.  That’s not to say I understood the sermon either.  The minister kept referring to God as He, which would set my mind to wondering.  My experience of God existed right back to my earliest memories, and that being was more feminine than masculine.  I could not relate to the He the minister kept talking about.  Could I have been so wrong?  Is it possible that the minister had it wrong?

“What is the point of church, anyway?”  I asked my parents one day.  “Seems to me it is hypocritical.”

“Sunday is the day that we worship our Lord,”  my mother said.  “We dress up and show respect in His name.”

“Well, what about the rest of the week?  Is it okay to be nasty the rest of the week? Doesn’t God watch us then? Shouldn’t we be living in respect of God all week long?” I didn’t mention the gender thing.

“She makes a good point,” my father added.

“That’s the way it’s always been done,” my mother shrugged.

We stopped going to church, but my quest for spiritual understanding didn’t stop there.  I invited myself to my friend’s churches, and discovered stricter creeds, and attitudes of superiority and exclusiveness.

Organized religion, from my perspective, tells one what to believe, rather than encouraging one’s own relationship with the divine.  As a child, I had a deep and very real connection with something that was beyond the ordinary – a loving, yet omnipotent power.

Now, I seek a return to the sense of wonder of life, to the simplicity of knowing that there is a presence or meaning that transcends the mundane, and the security of believing in that force.  I crave goodness, and a harmonious state of being.  I want to know inner peace.