Jan 3 2010

Smiling at the Trees

CUGA-Pinnacle-winter-hI recently came across a moving story in Rick Bass’ book, The Wild Marsh.  In the following passage Rick tells of the day his young daughter, Lowry, asked the question, “Where is God?”

 “The question catches me for half a step, maybe longer.  Everywhere, I answer.  Lowry considers this, looks around, then points to a huge cedar.  Is that tree him?  Yes.  Where’s his ear?  Well—he really doesn’t have ears.  I can see her considering an earless visage, and so I change tack and fall back on the familiar: Everywhere.  She peruses the woods more closely.  A tree has fallen across the trail and been sawed into pieces by the trail crew and shoved to one side.  Is that cut-down tree him?  Yes.  On the drive home, once we get to the gravel drive, I let Low sit in my lap and steer.  As she does so this time, I notice that she keeps looking out her window and flashing her pretty smile, and holding it for several seconds.  When I ask her what she’s doing, she says, Smiling at the trees.

I think Rick’s daughter is on to something here.  If God is everywhere—if He is made manifest in all that He has made—shouldn’t there be more smiles on our faces?  Isn’t that one way we might recognize and honor God’s presence? 

Because of my environmental views I have been called a “tree hugger.”  I don’t mind the label at all.  I do love nature and want us to do whatever we can to preserve and protect God’s Creation.  Still, I think I’d prefer to be known as a “tree smiler,” as someone who recognizes God’s presence in Creation and gratefully responds to His gift.  Furthermore, I want to be someone who helps others see God in His Creation so that they can smile at trees too.  In the year to come, I hope you find much to smile about.


(The image above was taken from the Pinnacle at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.)

Nov 18 2009

Another Form of Prayer

UPM-leaf-on-paper-birch-201I am currently reading Rick Bass’ newest book, The Wild Marsh.  A couple of nights ago I came across a passage that has intrigued me.  Rick writes of his religious neighbors lack of understanding of his environmental concerns.  He says, “They counsel me that with eternity at stake in the unending afterlife, there is little point or economy in getting so fretted up about clearcuts when our mortal time here is so temporal and the earth is but a proving ground for the far greater and lasting struggle of our souls, our eternal salvation.”  It is Bass’ response that has intrigued me. He writes, “But someone…puts the spark and light of peace and joy and worship and awe in my heart when I am far back in the distant mountains, so close to the sky and a scale of time greater than my own brief stay, and that spark tells me that for me, activism is a form of prayer, a way of paying back some small fraction of the blessing that the wilderness is to me, a way of celebrating and protecting that creation, and a way of giving thanks.” 

I love the concept of environmental activism being a form of prayer.  I had never thought of it in that way before but it makes sense.  Standing up for God’s Creation truly is “a way of giving thanks” and, for me, giving thanks is one of the purest and most honorable forms of prayer.  In what God has created we find much to be grateful for.  Bass is right; wilderness is a true blessing and something worth celebrating and protecting.  I just wish more Christians realized this.   

Perhaps if we would come to accept Rick’s concept of activism as a form of prayer more of us would take the time to write letters to members of Congress, support groups working to preserve God’s Creation, or make an extra effort to practice the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.  It might even give us yet another way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  Regardless, it is important that we realize that even with eternity in view caring for God’s Creation here and now is critical and a part of our Christian responsibility.


(The picture above of a maple leaf reposing on a white paper birch was taken at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore last month.)