“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)
In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer tells the story of a plant scientist who hired an Indigenous guide to help him explore the rainforest for new botanical discoveries. The young guide is thorough, taking care to point out the most interesting species and surprising the scientist with his capacity. “Well, well, young man, you certainly know the names of a lot of these plants.” The guide nodes, then responds with downcast eyes. “Yes, I have learned the names of all the bushes, but I have yet to learn their songs.”
A walk or a hike through nature is oftentimes all we need to calm our nervous system, to clear our heads, to embrace the gifts of beauty and grace God desires to bestow. Venturing into the woods, away from the sounds of human civilization grants us the quiet we need to hear nature’s song-warbling birds, vibrating insects, the call of animals for food or mating or warning or sheer joy. When we take the time to meditate among nature, it’s as if God’s creation stands in applause. Yes! Yes! the trees shout, their leaves whistling and clapping in the wind. Yes! This is the joy that has been here for you all along.
Examine: Recall the last time you walked among nature. What led you there? What songs did you hear? Breathe. Notice thoughts and feelings that arise.
Imagine: Imagine yourself walking along a mountainous wooded trail far from home, work, all the responsibilities of life. It’s just you alone in nature. What do you hear? What do you smell? What rhythms of nature can you feel outside you? Inside you? Embrace this moment of joy and praise.
Pray: Free me for joy, O God, so I can live with gratitude.