Nature Patiently Abides
Marisa Guerin, PhD – May 18, 2021
It is often difficult to find my bearings after I read up on the daily news. The packed-together jumble of crises, armed conflict, tragedies, human interest stories, political complexities, climate anxiety, the worlds of sports, entertainment, crime, health and illness – my mind and heart end up filled with so much and with so many competing emotions. It would be one thing if news reporting just updated my cognitive inventory of what’s happening. But it does so much more than that. Because there are images, and videos, and first-hand accounts, I am the equivalent of THERE, and such intensity can be just unbearable.
Any one of the human dramas of the day would be enough to take up all of my emotional capacity. The horrifying, sorrowful pain of families in India, losing tens of thousands of loved ones without a functioning health system to provide care. The terrible bombing and killing in the Middle East, a land and its peoples ravaged by a conflict that seems impossible to end. Young person after young person dying to senseless gun violence in our city streets, a uniquely American version of the deaths of despair, compounded by racism. I could go on, but I won't.
I’m not trying to depress you, the reader. You also know these things, and you have your own way of bearing with the feelings stirred by human suffering. I’m just reflecting on how difficult I find it, as I absorb every day’s dramas, to find and abide in an interior place where I can honestly see these parts of reality without numbing myself, and at the same time be able to know that the fullness of life and truth and reality is enormously larger. My world has tragedy in it, and joy in it; lives coming to their ends, and lives starting off brand new. Some things have to be accepted, other things stir righteous anger and need to be resisted and confronted, but the personal mix of these seems different for each person. Each day I do my best to channel the energies of my emotions into some kind of appropriate way to engage my world.
What I am aware of is that nature saves me: its majesty, beauty, power, delicacy, relentlessness, and its endurance through millions of years.
The first time I was aware of this was when I was 17 years old, on a winter youth retreat at Camp Newman in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. During an afternoon of free time, I wandered by myself into a clearing in the woods; everything was so still, snow-covered and beautiful, the white field ringed by dark pines with snowy boughs glinting in sun. The trees that day were truly alive to me, totally silent, but attentive to my turbulent teenaged heart. It was as if they brought healing just by bearing witness to my small life moving among them for a time. In retrospect, I think this was one of those moments people talk about, when the Mystery breaks into awareness.
Many times since then, and pretty much every day now, I am grateful for the sense of peace, steadiness, and joy that nature gives me.
The human family still has, always has had, probably always will have, brokenness and pain to deal with, injustice to correct, a world to repair. I can do my part, and I will try to continue to do that. It is bearable to me for two reasons: how the natural world holds us in its great cycle of life and death and renewal, and how Love continues to heal and transform the human family. I believe they are ultimately the same thing, an interior connectedness that is impossible to permanently fracture.
Meanwhile, the smell of a piney woods is enough to bring overwhelming peace and happiness to my heart.