For those who love to play with words, haikus offer a great opportunity.
Beautiful and dangerous
For those who love to play with words, haikus offer a great opportunity.
Beautiful and dangerous
Last Sunday, the Patriot News shared an article citing the American Academy of Pediatrics and the recommendation for playing outside. Here is a list of benefits for children;
*Better school performance. Time spent in nature and increased fitness improve cognitive function.
*More creativity. Outdoor play uses and nurtures the imagination.
*Much higher levels of fitness. Kids are more active when they are outdoors.
*More friends. Children who organize their own games and participate in unstructured group activities are less solitary and learn to interact with their peers.
*Less depression and hyperactivity. Time in nature is soothing, improves mood and reduces stress. It can also increase kids’ attention span, because things move at a slower pace than they do on the screen.
*Stronger bones. Exposure to natural light helps prevent vitamin D deficiency, making outdoorsy children less vulnerable to bone problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health issues.
*Improved eyesight. Time spent outdoors can help combat increasing diagnoses of nearsightedness.
*Better sleep. Exposure to natural light, and lots of physical activity, help reset a child’s natural sleep rhythms.
*A longer life span and healthier adult life. Active kids are more likely to grow into active adults.
Last week I was stuck in traffic on route 581 and wondering if people have simply forgotten how to use an exit ramp. Out of nowhere came the bouncy flight pattern of a bright yellow bird. Who would have expected to see a goldfinch right here and right now? I should have got out of the car and cheered.
A monarch flies by. I have been seeing a lot of them lately. I follow it to a milkweed patch where I find a future monarch full of colorful black, white, and yellow stripes. This is where monarchs, future and present, go for dinner. I am not much interested in joining them for dinner, but I think it would be fun to join them for an adventure to the Sierra Madres. This is what the fifth generation of monarchs do for a good time.
I watch a cormorant swimming on the surface of the lake when suddenly he is gone. Only to appear again about thirty yards further ahead. Cormorants are excellent divers and capable swimmers. They also appear to have quite an appetite. I also like the orange color of his chin. Not too far away I find a Wood Duck blooming into his fall colors.
While near the water, I can’t help but notice the number of Whitetails. They are in front of me, behind me, and on both sides. They fly by and hover close as if they are trying to figure out what I might be. Of course, I am referring to a black and white dragonfly called the Common Whitetail.
Not far into the forest I find a spider web. At first I don’t even notice, but on the way by when the sun hits it just right, I am greeted with an incredible work of art. How did she know I would be passing by this way? I wonder if she finished it just for me? Is she looking for applause?
I was walking a trail when I spotted a peregrine falcon. This is undoubtedly the fastest creature on earth. As soon as I get close enough for a look, she flies off. Surprisingly, not too far ahead I catch up to her and again when I get close she flies away. Unbelievably, I find her again further up the trail. I begin to think of how the tortoise became so famous when he beat the hare. What are people gonna think of me when they find out I am keeping pace with a peregrine?
A loud crack gets my attention and I quickly look to where the noise came from. I expect to find something large looking my way. Instead I watch as a tree topples over. (So if I weren’t here to hear it – would it have made a sound)?
I am astonished at the colors I find on the forest floor. I am talking about the fungus. I have found golden yellow (and it was shaped like a butterfly). Glowing oranges and burnt oranges and bright whites. Strange shades of purples and reds, some of them spotted. Crayola should take a field trip into the forest and take notes.
Early one morning I find a snake on a rock and turtles sunning on a log. They don’t move as I pass but I wonder if they are cheering as I walk by. Like I cheer the finch, the web, and the falling tree. And the whole time the August sounds of cicadas by day and katydids at night are like a band playing for all our comings and goings.
It is as if creation is on parade. Sometimes we walk right past it, other times it marches on by. We watch and we are being watched as the band plays. We join August on parade. And we wonder, did we walk through August? Or did it pass us by?
We are told the human story begins in a garden. We are told there were trees pleasing to the eye and they were good for food. We are told there was gold and aromatic resin and onyx. I imagine it to be a place where the wind blew the scent of lilac and lavender and honeysuckle. A place where fish and frogs and turtles splashed in its waters. I imagine laurel and ferns and other ground cover where canines and felines and bovines made paths as they made their way through.
I imagine it to be a place where these trees reached upward, deciduous and conifer, boasting seasonal bloom and color. Trees that became home to owls and woodpeckers and cardinals. I imagine the garden to be full of amphibians and birds and insects that joined as a great choir. I imagine sunny skies by day and shimmering night lights. I imagine brilliant colors on the horizon both evening and morning visible from strategic places in the garden. I imagine a dazzling creation display. While my imaginings are tainted by my local eco sphere, there is something we are told for certain. This is a place where God dwelt with his people.
When humans entered Genesis, we entered as stewards of creation. We also entered as representatives of God. Genesis not only tells us who we are, but what we are made for. We bear the image of God. This is not only a statement about identity, but also about mission. The primary task of an image bearer is to represent the one whose image you bear. Image bearers are to reflect the Creator’s wisdom into the world.
As image bearing representatives, we are designed to work with God toward His purposes. We are designed to use our gifts to follow God’s plan. Yet, we often use our abilities to generate other gods. We abort God’s plan and work toward our own glory. We literally sabotage the very thing we have been made for. The biblical storyline essentially says that by worshipping other gods we give ourselves to wilderness wanderings and exile, principalities and powers. If we expect the world to take us seriously, we need to become more serious about our role as God’s representatives.
Along the west shore of the Susquehanna River, tucked between the Juniata and Sherman’s Creek, almost hidden in the shadow of Cove Mountain, lays the borough of Duncannon. This is where you will find me on the first day of the week. There I gather with others of a similar mind about what has taken place on this day.
Genesis starts off from the beginning telling us how eventful the first day was. We go from “darkness was over the surface of the waters” to “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Needless to say, this move from darkness to light is a significant one.
Perhaps no day has ever been more eventful than one described by the Gospel. John takes us from “they saw that He was already dead” to “the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” to “on that day, the first day of the week… Jesus came and stood in their midst.” At the risk of understatement, it is quite a move from death to life.
We are reminded again of the unpredictability of the first day when Acts reports that people “from every nation” began to “hear in our own language.” Again, just to highlight the obvious. It is quite a move from isolation and division to community.
So we gather on this day and in this place with expectation. We realize that surprise is always a possibility. We believe the miraculous can occur on any day, we are simply acknowledging a serious precedent for unpredictability on this day, the first day of the week. A day the Trinity has already been extremely active. When I think of what has already taken place on this day all I can say is “wow.”
I am a traveler in the forest. Winding my way through the dark, through a light snow and through the trees toward the trail that will take me back to the road. I see my breath against the clear sky where a slim crescent moon and a brilliant evening star shine the brightest.
I am one who listens to the night. Waiting for a song or a call in the distance but all I hear is the wind in the branches of nearby trees. Blowing across some of these creates a whistling sound. Blowing against others causes a percussion effect. Tonight’s entertainment is acoustic and instrumental.
I am a weather watcher. I think of Annie Dillard’s comment “We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.”
What are we to do when we gather as followers of Jesus? Can we begin with a meager “Hosanna!” or “Blessed is the King!” Does the text not tell us the stones will cry out if we do not? Virginia Stem Owens is a writer who enjoys playing with the sciences. I am fascinated by her contribution to this conversation. She suggests faith is always present in creation and that creation has always been more faithful than you and I.
Stem Owens tells us it is our place, our niche, “To give voice to the cry.” The stones are prepared and waiting to sing their praise song if we do not. She goes on “This is our big chance… Still the mute mountains, the dumb desert, the dying stars wait for us to provide a throat for their thanksgiving. There must be a great logjam in the cosmos. One can almost hear it groaning and creaking some summer nights, threatening to give way under the pressure of pent up praise.
What would happen if we stepped into our place? If we fulfilled our niche and gave voice to the cry? Stem Owens asks “Would morning stars sing together as they did when the cornerstone of creation was laid… Would the hidden sea creatures, full of a barbarous beauty, echo from the salted depths, and the innards of earth have themselves in roiling, molten music?”
She goes on “They are waiting – the mammoths metamorphosed into oil among the ferns, the ozone layer hovering like an eggshell over us, the alpine meadows sighing down mountainsides, the grizzlies and mosquitoes licking blood from their snouts – they are waiting to be sprung from their bondage to decay, to lift up and up and up their hearts. They are waiting for us to get our act together. To find out the answer to our interminable question of who we are.”
It is a good time of year to be in the garden. Or at least to think about it. Here is a garden thought from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now.
I am in the garden, turning soil and mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves and reach into the earth. I breathe in the smell and look forward to picking vegetables from the back yard. I am thinking about Genesis, where on the sixth day, God rolled up His sleeves and reached into the earth and formed a human, an earthling.
Genesis says God gave the earthling a name and then breath. Genesis says God looked at this breathing, moving, artistic creation and, “behold, it was very good.” It is not recorded, but I suspect He also said, “Wow.”
I find it interesting that God planted a garden and placed the earthling there to cultivate and to keep the garden. Barbara Brown Taylor thinks that while working in the garden you remember “where you came from and why. You touch the stuff your bones are made of. You handle the decomposed bodies of trees, birds, and fallen stars. Your body recognizes its kin. If you have nerve enough, you also foresee your own decomposition. This is not bad knowledge to have. It is the kind that puts other kinds in perspective. Feel that cool dampness? Welcome back to earth, you earthling. Smell that dirt? Welcome home, you beloved dust creature of God.”
I, scooped from the earth, now flesh given breath, am in the garden, turning soil, mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves. I breathe in the smell. I reach into the earth. It gets under my nails. In my hair. It’s caked on my knees. I call it dirt. But I think about the sixth day when God first formed a human from this stuff and all I can do is say “wow.”
Once upon a time a world was carved from chaos. The Maker loved this world and talked of how good it was. The world was full of life. Light shined on it. It was textured with deep valleys and tall mountains. Color fell on it and formed beautiful patterns. Life splashed against its shores and blew across its horizon. Life grew along its surface and up into its air. Living creatures flew through its skies and swam in its waters. Others crawled and climbed all over it. And some of these living creatures were special representatives of the Maker. The Maker loved them and talked of how very good they were. These creatures enjoyed the Maker and this world and all that was in it.
The timber rattlesnakes were active in the forest this week. I only know this because I walked up on two of them. Neither of them seemed to be concerned about my presence. These are awesome creatures with their large hefty body and colorful pattern. So large it makes the triangular head appear small. As he moves away from me, it appears to be a strain for this small head and narrow neck to pull such a large body behind it. One of them raised its tail that transitions to a darker color before the rattle begins. I followed it until the cover got so thick that I no longer had a clear view of its dangerous head.
But that was not the most impressive creature I encountered. Walking along a well-worn path I noticed a black tail lying out in the open. Thinking it was a black rat snake I carefully moved closer hoping to get a glimpse of its length. As my eyes followed its tail into the weeds I noticed the body became thick rather quickly. At first I thought maybe it had eaten recently and this was a bulge until digestion was completed. However, this snake appeared thick all the way to its head. There was no visible distinction between head and neck which made the head look large.
When it realized it had been discovered it began to move away. I followed and it turned to see what had disturbed its hunting time. Easily six feet long, this thick body was black with a chainlike pattern that was visible when light hit at the proper angle. Its belly and chin appeared to be white. We stared at one another for a while before it raised its head and flicked its tongue. For a moment I thought it was going to speak “Are you alone out here? What are you doing so deep in the jungle?” Oh wait, I am thinking of the Jungle Book.
The field guide suggests that this is Lampropeltis nigra, a combination of Greek and Latin words that roughly translate as “radiant black small shields.” I had never seen an Eastern Black Kingsnake in the wild before. Interestingly, I also read they are immune to the venom of timber rattlesnakes and will eat them when opportunity presents. Maybe that is what he was hunting for. Perhaps I should have shown him where to look. It is a snake eat snake world out there. I wonder if Kipling got ideas for his stories from adventures like these.