In these later decades of life, I have come to see even more fully the value of being immersed in the natural world. The lessons I learn from being among nature’s small and large wonders form the basis of this series of blogs. Today’s thought: What lasts longest speaks most loudly.
Whether tending to my own backyard, walking in the neighborhood or gazing at a vast landscape, I can see how the natural world endures over long stretches of time. What seems nearly eternal in nature speaks to me of an assuredly everlasting God.
Trees older than me, generations of persistent insects, a mountain range that defines my horizons, large flocks of annually migrating birds, a nighttime sky filled with untold histories, biological processes that continue assuredly—What I hear from these durable parts of nature continues to instruct my own life:
• “We’ve been here a long time, so must know something.” Nature knows what I may need to understand. An extinct volcano hints at the forces of the earth’s core—power beyond my meager imagination. Slow, steady chemical interactions form towers of rock in a saline lake, and tell me again how small, relentless changes can result from my life. An enduring, complex food chain draws together an interdependent host of living things, and reminds me of my interconnectedness.
• “Trust what lasts.” Nature’s repeating cycles encourage my own dependability. Because mountains, forests and even the ground have weathered more than I can imagine, I am invited to remain steadfast, to re-examine my own trustworthiness. I can better discern when reliability is perhaps more important than nimbleness.
• “You are here.” I designate as “landmarks” natural features that help me orient myself to a specific location in the larger geography. These markers and milestones are rooted deeply into soil or sightlines, remaining in place over eons. The shadows of a summer sunset, a rocky crag, raptors’ favorite nesting sites, a hillock housing generations of burrowing rodents—each proclaims the security of place-knowledge. Knowing where I am helps me know where I’ve come from and where the next steps in my life might lead.
• “In difficult conditions, you can survive and even prosper.” As I age, it sometimes feels as though difficult conditions are increasing. Nature tells me stories of continuing triumphs over adversity, so I can take heart when my own life seems overwhelmingly toilsome. I look at life forms in the natural world that have adapted to sometimes-hostile environments; I see how trees extend their moisture-seeking roots further into the soil and I admire my yard’s weeds for their tenacity. It’s good to know that I, too, am made of God’s sturdy stuff.
• “We survive because death is not permanent.” The lively world of nature passes regularly from life to death, and then back to life again. Water-deprived seeds may lie fallow in the desert for decades, coming into verdant bloom in the presence of abundant rain. Buried deeply in the ground, bulbs and roots hold the sparks of life that are rewarded by sun and warmth. My resurrection will claim me more strongly than will my death!
• “Nature reproduces itself.” I am reassured about the future when I see nature’s fierce striving to replicate itself: Insects that live only long enough to deposit eggs in hidden places; birds that ferociously guard their nestlings and trees that scatter their seeds over the terrain—I resolve again to pass on to others the blessings God has given me.
These are the voices that I heed when I am part of the natural world. Small or large, each of these parts of God’s creation is an expression of God’s will, spoken in the accent of nature herself.