Saturday, December 4, 2010

On Nature and How I've Missed It

With all the reading challenges, you can probably tell I've missed reading.  Baby D has been a fairly demanding baby, and only recently has she become a little more independent and self entertaining.  I almost don't know what to do with the stretches of free time during the day as she and her sister play.  ("And you want another one?!" I can hear Mr. Hubs saying in his usual dramatic way...)

One evening last month, Mr. Hubs stayed with the kids while I ran to the library.  I had intended on only picking up a knitting book, but of course I got distracted by the rows and rows of inviting titles and covers, which led to many books being opened.  I think, that after being with my family, being in a library aisle, with books to both my sides, is my favorite place to be.  I happened across the book Bird Songs of the Mesozoic by David Hopes.

The title caught my attention first, quickly followed by the cover art.  I love birds.  I love watching them, feeding them, listening to them.  It's fun and relaxing.  Miss Dainty's learned a lot by studying them, too, so that doesn't hurt.   When I realized it was more of a memoir or collection of essays, I almost put it back on the shelf.  I don't particularly enjoy memoir type books.  The few I've read seemed to drone on and on, with no specific plot, and that bothers me to no end.  I need a conflict, and I need a resolution.  But the last part of the title:  A Day Hiker's Guide to the Nearby Wild convinced me to at least give it a try.

When I read that, I instantly thought back to our time in Florida.  Mr. Hubs and I used to hike a lot back then.  Even after having Miss Dainty, we managed to be outdoors more often than not.  We would just put her in the backpack carrier and be on our happy way, enjoying the forests that we thought looked more like jungles at times, with friends who equally enjoyed the outdoors.  The Jacksonville area was awesome when it came to outdoorsy type activities.  They had numerous parks and forests that beckoned hikers, bikers, campers, photographers, and birdwatchers.  I loved it.  I've missed it.

**In the top left pic, I was pregnant, but we hadn't found out yet.  In the picture to its right, I was 7 months along and did a 4 mile hike.  =)

I've missed being out in nature, and looking at those pictures from Florida makes that feeling sink in even more.  I've tried here in Virginia, but it seems in our area (at the parks I've visited at least,) the trails are an after thought.  The boat ramps and playgrounds seem most important, and even Frisbee golf takes precedent over the trails at our nearest park.  I have to distract my kids away from the playgrounds for them to even notice nature, and even then, Miss Dainty constantly asks if it's time to go play yet.  I miss just being in nature. 

So, back to the book, I started it that night, and indeed it's been a slow read for me.  I have enjoyed some parts of his writing, especially where he speaks of his interaction with nature in his every day comings and goings.  I share in his appreciation for nature, yet we appreciate it for different reasons.  I'm not sure he really knows why he appreciates it, just that he does.  For me, spending time in nature observing creation, its beauty and intricacies, helps me connect to the Creator.  It's like spending time at a museum and observing a favorite painter's work.  You get to know the artist through his creation, and I feel that way about God and nature.

It reminds me of this passage in the Bible:
Romans 1:19-20 NIV  "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

On the other hand, the author alludes to a struggle with this concept, and I'm not even sure he meant to.  He first says on page 28 while hiking, "I stop in the road and ask myself, 'What are you afraid of?' Of staying forever the way I am.  Of dying alone and friendless.  Of fighting with God so much that he turns away from me."  I found this an interesting peek into the author's innermost thoughts and struggles.  But then he goes on to say, "None of those things is here.  None of them is coming at me out of the shadows of the forest."  And that is where he was wrong.  His struggle with God would be coming out of the forest, simply due to God's presence in His work, and the author's struggle to acknowledge it.

Later, on page 66, he expresses a struggle with the idea of evolution.  Talking about the evolution of the dragonfly from a larvae type creature, he writes, "What I want to know is, how were they summoned into shining air?  How did it cross their unimaginable little minds even to commence such a journey?  Yes, I know how it's supposed to work, but all the time there has been since the beginning of time should not be enough to turn the one thing into the other."  Exactly, Mr. Hopes.

The book is not meant to be spiritual in the least.  It's a collection of essays on how "nature finds you wherever you are."  But honestly, where there is nature, there is God, naturally.  I am only about halfway done with the book, and I will probably finish it in hopes of more insights and epiphanies on the author's part concerning nature and God.  I'm curious to see if they are in there.  If what is on the cusp of his understanding will click, if what is on the tip of his tongue will be professed.

The book has served as a gentle reminder of how much I missed being outdoors, though.  Sure, I notice things while I'm out and about.  I always do.  The changing color of the leaves, a flock of birds singing as we get home, an interesting bug to point out to the girls, a lizard or turtle sunbathing.  But I miss being immersed in it, in His creation.  Of course, God is always with us, but I enjoy that visual and physical presence found in nature.

Luckily for me, after realizing this, I remembered our Girl Scout troop would be doing a hike, but couldn't recall the exact day (although I knew it was to happen soon.)  When I checked my notes, would you believe it was the very next day?  Good thing I was prompted to check, or we would have missed out on it.  Instead, we went, and enjoyed it.  Miss Dainty ran off on the trails with the girls, while I (with Baby D on my back,) enjoyed, with a renewed appreciation, the scenery, the fresh air, the crunch of the leaves, the sun's warmth (a last farewell before the cold hit.)  And I reveled in it and so did Miss Dainty, and that made me happy. 
Even if I end up not finishing the book, it has served a purpose for me: a reminder of something I love and miss dearly.  Of something I've always wanted to share with my children, and yet haven't been as much as I had intended.  Living in Sicily got us into the habit of not going out with the single purpose of enjoying nature, there was nowhere nearby to go to do so, but now that we are back in the States, I want to change that.  I'm looking forward to it.


My Captivating Images said...

Perhaps this author is lost and we should pray for him. I love nature as well for much the same reason as you. I worked at a state park in HS. I was the "naturalist". That sounds so dirty but it was just that I taught kids about nature and so on. Oh and let me just say you go girl!!! 7 months prego and doing a 4 mile hike! Some days I thought I wouldn't make it to the mail box. Ofcourse I was on bedrest and that was about the farthest I was allowed to go. :)

Sheena said...

I agree. I'm hoping that there are still more clues left yet, as my this has piqued my interest. I almost want to write the author! That sounds like an awesome job to have in HS. I worked at a grocery store... =/ not as much fun. Yeah, my first pregnancy I'm not sure it really sunk in that I was pregnant, LOL. My second pregnancy I definitely wasn't as active. Chasing the 3 year old exhausted me enough! =) Were you on bedrest the whole pregnancy? That had to have been hard! =(

My Captivating Images said...

With my 4th child I was on bedrest the whole time. The 2nd child I was on bedrest from about 4 months on and with the 3rd child I was on bedrest at about 5 months. They were still all 3 preemies but very healthy preemies. I was very blessed. I noticed you said in one of your comments that you miss your camera. What happened?

Sheena said...

Well, I'm glad that even though they were preemie, they were born healthy! About the camera, nothing happened to it, I just haven't taken the time to practice photography, and I do miss it. In Sicily, before Baby D was born, I was putting more time into it, had joined a photography club, and whatnot. Once she was born though, I didn't have much time. I would like to get back into it though. =) I like the idea of the scavenger hunts you've been participating in.