Faith Matters column
by Gail Landers, New Covenant United Church of Christ
Adventure awaits. “Morning has broken … God’s recreation of a new day.” These hymn lyrics, penned by British author Eleanor Farjean almost 90 years ago, are based on Psalm 118 verse 24. We so often hear these words in the opening to worship. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (ESV).
Nature brings us seasons of refreshment, growth and healing. To paraphrase Thoreau, the seasons of nature, painted by the landscape artist, our Creator, are constantly changing. From the hues of autumn to the whites of winter and the green sprouts of spring, transformation abounds.
The air outdoors can provide healthier alternatives. While we center on calmness and quietness, wholeness of heart and soul, peace and contentment bring recurring beauty. Through walks, talks, hikes and bikes and sometimes overnights, we anticipate the welcoming renewal and breath that strengthens the spirit.
This shared outdoor space, even if only in our own backyard or from a glance out a window, invites us to go beyond the lens of glass and hear the sounds of wildlife. Our senses are also opened to aromas of the seasons when we can really feel the developing beauty of life. From small streams to mountain views, relief, respite and renewal are bountifully provided.
As for me, these settings trigger memorable childhood experiences from early play digging in dirt with sticks and stones and making villages like the stories in McLerran and Cooney’s book, “Roxaboxen.” Then there were family camping trips at mostly regional Pennsylvania state parks.
As a Girl Scout counselor in training, I learned both in and on the waters of Loyalsock Creek.
I also learned an appreciation of foul and fauna dancing and playing in the Leganihanne (Lycoming Creek), which always indicated the sometimes flooding waters had returned to safer channels.
In my best efforts to leave no trace, I have minimized and more recently refrained from collecting rocks, shells and sea glass. But the stories within these outside objects are mystifying. Some are smooth or rough, worn and weary, tossed and forgotten. Some are layered, holed and chewed, fossil-like. They harbor a history of creation from sources beyond the waters.
My close-to-nature best practice came in my early 30s as a regular solo runner. And for the next 20-plus years, running was my independent time, free exercise, and a chance to notice daily changes in the outdoor world.
Beyond the quest from within and our own individual needs and desires, comes the responsibility of appreciation and preservation, thanksgiving and living for the future. We are relatives of the earth and share in the web of stewardship. From the valley waterways to the nearby mountains, reflections of life permeate our environment. A resident eagle, a symbol of prominence, strength, and majesty, stirs the spirit, lifting and overcoming. This icon becomes an ever present reminder of order in nature.
“The eagle gives thanks for the mountains, the fish give thanks for the sea, the seeds give thanks for sunlight and rain, and we give thanks for all that we receive” (adapted from a Native American prayer). Blessings of sustenance are plentiful in this visible creation we enjoy and need to care for.
And we, the Christian Social Concerns Committee of the United Churches of Lycoming County, give thanks for the stewardship efforts of Ned Coates. We remember and treasure his wisdom, stories and humor. May others find in nature the adventures that he shared with us through canoeing, hiking, biking, classes and meals.
– Gail Landers, member, New Covenant United Church of Christ, Williamsport