Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feed Nature

As far back as I can remember nature has always fascinated me. I've watched it wander through its seasons with wonder and amazement, sometimes frightened by its roar or humbled by its gentleness. But always I've been its student, enrolled in life and captivated by the tales it tells. Though I've not always been a careful student, it has always been a patient and forgiving teacher.

I was never worried that winter would consume the hope of spring or that summer would burn away the hope of snow. Watching nighttime snowflakes dance to the ground as they swirled past the outdoor light, I understood that this white death was no death at all but nature's plan for renewal. The snow would feed the spring and help to mix the nutrients trapped in the fallen leaves of autumn into the soil that lay below.

The storms that threw down lightning on the edge of spring were not angry. They were inspired. The lightning split the clouds, commanding them with a thunderous roar to loose their moisture upon the earth. Torrents rushed into watersheds that nature had prepared to absorb them. Streams swelled with spring's joyful surplus, carrying their treasures to the bottomlands where they would enrich the valleys, lakes, and rivers that were home to the abundant fish and wildlife so dependent upon them.

When the summer sun baked the soil, one could almost hear the July corn growing in the fields. It's stalks cracked in happy stretches that gave honor to the warmth of the sun for which they were so anxious. And when it began to paint the edges of summer's growth with golden brown, one knew the sun was preparing summer's proud effort for an autumn harvest so that there would be seed and fruit again in spring.

Once again the world would need to bare itself to winter's blanket so that it could sleep a refreshing sleep till spring. Trees would flame with color, waiting for a cold and blustery wind to cast their autumn cloaks upon the ground, leaving them naked against a graying sky. Frost would dance on windowpanes and cast its spectra on fields like diamonds that danced in gentle breezes before the morning sun. Overhead, the geese would sing their plaintive song, urging their neighbors ever southward.

The first snow would fall from a November sky where every living breath hung in sacred stillness. Masterpiece upon masterpiece, the flakes would fall until their individual beauty was lost in the overwhelming brilliance of the all. Trees and grasses would bow in humble reverence to the weight of such accumulated beauty. The snow would squeak its protest against being so unjustly impacted on roads and lanes of winter life. Nature stilled her voice to listen to the cold winter lullabies carried by the wind.

Then the sun would shine again, the crocus would burst through the snow, and simple grass would ignite the song of spring in every heart that stopped to gaze upon it or stooped to welcome it from it's winter sleep. Icicles would form on eaves in crystal celebration of the sun and streams would trickle beneath the snow, popping out here and there to display their urgent rush for spring.

These are memories. But they are filled with life and knowledge because they are filled with nature. From them I have learned life's most painful lessons, 1) if you leave it alone, it will usually survive, 2) if you cultivate it, it will thrive, and 3) if you abuse it, it will usually die.

Nature is an organic collective and like all things organic, it needs food, water, and good neighbors to survive. If you feed it, it'll feed you and whatever you feed it, you will end up eating. These are wise admonitions for our treatment of the nature upon which we so desperately depend for life. The violation of nature is ultimately a violation of our selves and of all that we were meant to be. We cannot neglect it without becoming victims of our own neglect.

If we feed it poison, those poisons will poison us. If we deprive nature, we will suffer nature's deprivation. If we exploit it, sucking the life out of it for profit, it will suck the life out of us. That is nature's way of balancing our neglect. We cannot presume to reap what we have not sown. Neither can we presume to sow harm and not reap its harvest.

Nature is not a tool we exploit for profit. It's a friend. When you visit your friends, what do you do? You eat! Friends do not hesitate to offer you their best. But if you are their true friend you will not exploit their kindness. You will not eat everything they have in the cupboard or return day after day until you've impoverished their household. If you do, they will weary of your friendship. Real friends are meeker than that. If you're a true friend, you'll feed those that feed you. You'll give them the rest and encouragement and sustenance they need. You, too, will feed their friendship.

The earth is crying out for such a friend. Its convulsions are signs of its discomfort. It is not asking for much, only that we would cease to poison its friendship with our human ambition. It has meekly yielded to our every importunity. But its cupboards are growing bare. We may continue to exploit its kindness for a while longer, but in so doing we may also render it incapable of feeding those that are supposed to be its friends. If we want nature to continue feeding us, we must learn how to feed nature.

Returning to life's most painful lessons, some things are best left wild, some things need to be cultivated, and any seed of abuse or neglect will produce a harvest after its own kind. Nature needs mankind to stand up to its friendship responsibility. Nature needs man to recognize what must be left alone, what needs to be cultivated, and what abuse must end. Nature needs mankind to replenish, not exploit the soil, to purify, not pollute the waters, and to act more like its neighbor than its master. The earth is a meek friend and only the meek shall inherit the earth. All others will destroy it.

"For yet a little while, and the evildoers will be no more; though you look with care where they used to be, they will not be found. But the meek [in the end] shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." (Psalm 37:9-10, AMP)

Michael Hennen

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