God’s All-Encompassing Presence in Nature

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 21, 2020

By: Sue Thompson

I landed in Richmond in the early morning on March 14. We were on a ski trip with our younger daughter, who is a pediatric disease specialist, and while away became tired and worried about this “new” coronavirus. After retrieving my car, I drove to a number of stores finding rattled salespeople and empty shelves. I came away with few groceries and none of the supplies I had naively planned to pick up. I was shaken and actually scared. Richmond and the world were transformed.

I arrived home stressed, exhausted, and faced with unpacking a car full of luggage. I opened the car door, sighed, and then glanced up. There was a Saucer Magnolia in full, glorious bloom. Instead of hauling luggage inside, I deliberately chose to procrastinate, and I started wandering. The morning was warm and the greens of the earth bright and fresh. Daffodils were blooming; the grape hyacinths were sending up their small blue heads in the beds of newly emerging maroon peony foliage. I kept walking.

By the time I returned to the car, I had been physically transformed. The overwhelming stress and exhaustion were totally gone. Since that morning in March, I have continued to have this powerful and embracing experience.

As landscapers, my partners and I have been working outside daily, but six feet apart, throughout the pandemic. In nurseries, we find fewer plants available as people are buying them as soon as they come in. Herbs are nearly unavailable. Vegetables are flying off shelves. Displays, normally stacked with seed packets, are also nearly empty. These shortages in many ways are frustrating. Yet, they are reflections of something much more important. Our own backyards are becoming more of a haven than probably ever before. They are calling to be noticed, to be tended, and to be loved. Nature has become a sanctuary for many.

What we are seeing—what has been revealed—is the heightened awareness of nature’s all-encompassing presence. I believe this is a renewed connection. It is a gift. Small things matter – a violet, a dandelion. I am now seeing them as more than slightly annoying weeds. They are magical. Their forms are intricate and purposeful, and they provide native insects with much needed food sources. Watching from a window recently, I saw a fat male cardinal perched on a holly branch next to a cluster of newly ripened holly berries. Again, a small gift of breathtaking beauty. One afternoon last week, while walking along a path to a creek, an owl flew out in front of my son and me and escorted us. Just a few days ago, while picnicking outside, we glanced up to see a young bald eagle racing across the sky with his incredibly strong wings. More gifts given.

This is a time to notice, a time to walk, and a time to realize that weeds can be beautiful flowers and earthworms are really cool. It is a time for awestruck glances at cloud formations and for viewing miraculous sunsets; a time to walk in the woods filled with newly emerging fern fiddleheads and emptied birds’ nests tucked into shrub thickets; a time for quiet reflection.

The intricacies and connections we see around us in the natural world are God’s gifts. Nothing is demanded of us to receive these gifts. We simply need to quiet our urgent need to “get things done” and open up our senses and breathe. Slowing down during this pandemic when we can, being present, picking a few fresh vegetables from a small garden space, are all ways we become more aware of God’s presence all around us.