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: How we who are older might compare ourselves to volcanoes….
Several times in life I’ve had the opportunity to explore a variety of geological features that had an edgy quality. I’ve crawled into earthquake faults, climbed to the top of mountains, and walked around inside volcanoes. (I grew up in California, where all of these experiences are possible!) In each case, significant thoughts have thrust themselves at me, mostly about the latent power of the natural world—the mountaintop could turn into a landslide; the earthquake fault might widen or narrow suddenly and the volcano could resume its eruptive character.
The volcano’s potential—to move from dormant to active—has especially fascinated me because it’s a large-scale example of how what seems to be resting benignly is actually hiding enormous energy that could change the surrounding landscape.
Dormancy holds an interesting place in natural history. The presumption of latent possibilities is always strong, even if there seems to be little evidence of life. “Dead” bushes, a chrysalis hanging on a branch, seeds of every kind and volcanoes—each presents itself as inert, quietly immobile, sleeping and oblivious to its surroundings. Experience in the natural world tells us otherwise—that exterior qualities do NOT accurately predict what’s happening deep down inside.
In the rest of life, this idea of “being dormant” includes several qualities: Activity that’s not noticeable; strong forces that are still churning; the gradual or sudden renewal of liveliness and how a placid or seemingly dead exterior can hide what’s actually true.
People aren’t seeds, bushes, chrysalises or even volcanoes. But the dormancy presented by these parts of nature might apply especially well to those of us who are older. Think how the analogy might fit: We might appear passive, inactive, disengaged or immobile. On the outside, we may look as if we lack power, capacity, agency or potential.
Just as surely, though, we are also like dormant elements of nature because we possess pent-up desires, hope, motivation to do good, forceful/persuasive relational power. Love, righteous indignation, spirituality, wisdom and grace simmer inside of us. We may appear to be inactive or even extinct, but we may actually just be dormant—waiting for the right circumstances to spring back into usefulness, activity, purpose and service to others.
In our later years, this dormancy might be built into our spirit—a good thing to know about ourselves. We ask what energies and desires are still active deep down inside our souls. We consider what might trigger us to move from dormancy to activity. We imagine what good might come from being aroused out of seeming passivity. Even though others might (mistakenly) think of us as inactive, we’re ready for the moment when what’s inside of us—even after all these years—comes bursting to the surface, breaking through our placid exteriors and engaging with the world around us.
Although we’re never going to be dead plants, plant seeds, chrysalises or volcanoes, we who are older are likewise dormant—for the time being. We’re confident that God’s Spirit within us continues to reawaken us with renewed power and purpose.
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