Jun 1 2009

A Wildly Wonderful World

garden-fall-08-2Today our son took us to a new nature center near his home in Newport Beach at the back end of the bay there. The area is sited beautifully overlooking the soft green marshes that fill this end of the bay, as well as the rolling hills surrounding it.What struck me was the land around the nature center. This was obviously severely damaged natural land. Yet it was quite amazing because of the work being done to restore the natural coastal scrub ecosystem. There were so many new plants and obvious care to how the area was now being treated.

The coastal scrub and chaparral areas around Los Angeles are important to me. As a newer resident of Los Angeles (having lived most of my life in the East and Midwest), Southern California nature was a strange place at first. There are few large trees, which had always been a joy for me in my old haunts. Maple/basswood as well as oak forests had been key parts of my life before. Coastal scrub and chaparral are similar shrub communities that vary somewhat in the plants growing in them, but also have many common features, such as their low height and ability to deal with a climate that is wet in the winter and dry the rest of the year.

I have long felt that all parts of this earth, every ecosystem is connected to God in some way. When I looked out on the hills of California at first, I did not recognize anything, so it became a challenge to understand what made these places important. I knew more about other parts of the country than my own backyard.

If it were true as I believed that God had a hand in all places on our stunning planet, then I needed to know more about the nature around Los Angeles. Coastal scrub is not simply something you have to walk through on the way to the beach! The chaparral is not simply something you pass through on the way to Yosemite! While I can relate to John Muir’s comments about his church being in the trees of Yosemite, that is not a “church” I can regularly visit.

I can get to places with coastal scrub and chaparral, such as this natural area in Newport Beach. As I walked through the area today, I recognized friends – California buckwheat, encelia, golden yarrow, goldbush, bladderpod – new California friends.

“How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all…” Psalm 104:24. That’s the New International Version. I also think version from The Message is great: “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.”

I think all of us have places near home that can renew us, places that show the creative hand of God. We don’t always have to go to Yosemite to have a meaningful encounter with God’s world. I happen to now love California buckwheat, a member of both the coastal scrub and chaparral, at all times of the year. The photograph at the head of this blog is of a native bee on California buckwheat flowers.

— Rob Sheppard