Sunday, May 23, 2010

Into the Woods

There is a primal and wild part of us that belongs in the woods – far removed from the everyday hustle and bustle, man-made structures and infrastructures, machines, and electronics with their noise and other associated distractions. A part of us belongs among the other living things created in the beginning so that we can directly experience, and thus value, our inter-connectedness. I believe with all of my heart and soul that it is vital to our being to maintain this connection – it is here that we can be silent, get to know ourselves and other beings, and above all – to know God.

I belong in another era perhaps, among the twittering birds of the tall grass prairie or on a high mountain lulled by wind stirring the trees and watching clouds scud across the sky. But since childhood, I have felt a connection to the land that is hard to express. I thank my family for that, for my parents came from a tradition of land-connection and fostered a respect for it in me.

Raised among myriad plants, and all the associated dirt, manure, sand, and water that those cultivated varieties required to survive and thrive, I always had a dirt or sand pile to play in – sometimes one of each. There were pests to learn to identify and deal with, although my way was with jars and magnifiers, and my parents’ was with traps, swatters and sprays.

I am of the age that remembers that parents said “Go outside and play” – and we all did. Although my domain back then was a city block or two, my favorite outdoor activities centered on what bits of nature I could find. Mostly this involved exploring around the neighborhood yards, streets and alleys, but we took frequent jaunts to nearby empty, weed-strewn lots. The “wildlife” was limited, but there were always a lot of caterpillars, bugs, and worms to find and most of us learned their names, habits, and life cycles.

Family outings or vacations were rare, but those were usually to a stream, river or lake for a picnic or fishing. There were city, county and state parks with rustic amenities and the wonderful national parks with their thousands of acres of wilderness and scenic vistas. To reach many of these, there were miles of driving through a mostly undeveloped landscape, so the opportunity for daydreaming and imagining was unlimited. All of these experiences helped shape me into the person I am today.

In this time and this place we are so often consumed with other things, both of our own making and beyond our control, that we fail to maintain our vital connection with the land. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do so, for it is in them that the seeds are planted for how our earth will be cared for (or not) in the future. It is with this intention that I am helping to establish a special garden, partly cultivated and partly left wild,  to nurture children with unstructured time spent in one small corner of what’s left of the natural world. It is our fervent wish that through this experience they will develop their imaginations, skills, and knowledge of this world and form their own intimate connections to God’s creations. It’s a place for the primal and wild part in all of us – so we also encourage adults to come and explore. What better way to spend some time than getting better acquainted with God's creations?

Now the LORD God planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food... The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Genesis 1:8, 9 & 15

(Photos by Sherry Gutierrez)

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