A lesson from nature

by Rich Heffern

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This reflection comes from Joni Woelfel. She is the author of three books with Acta Publications including Tall in Spirit: Meditations for the Chronically Ill, The Light Within: A Woman’s Book of Solace and Craving Hope: A Spiritual Companion on Your Weight Loss Journey.

My husband pulled the cord on our new little red garden tiller and as it started right up, I clapped my hands and shouted in pleasure above the putting motor, “I love the sound of it!” Then, off my husband went, to test it out on our hosta beds. Sure enough, it worked like a charm, deeply churning the soil along borders, up the hill and in the garden. My husband and I looked at each other like we were the cat’s meow, laughing out loud.

Both approaching 60, we are in the stage where we are planning ways to make taking care of our gardens and life more manageable. In this case, a lot less hand-hoeing is something we are excited about. I could hardly wait to tell our kids about the extravagant purchase, as we are all garden and landscaping enthusiasts.

Just that afternoon, I’d taken some time to sit on our deck meditating as I watched a group of young squirrels. Half grown siblings, they scurried up the trunk of the highest Ash tree and when they reached the top, came to an abrupt halt as they hit a dead end. The next tree was a considerable distance away, which seemed daunting to me. With barely a pause, the first one leapt across, while I and the remaining squirrels watched in awe. What a risk! How did it dare make a leap like that!

Suddenly, the other two, apparently inspired by the leader, easily made the jump as well, followed by a fourth latecomer who didn’t want to be left out. I sat there smiling, present to the moment and enjoying that sense of well-being one can only experience outdoors. When I went back into the house, the television was blaring and I thought, “Hmmm, do I want to be inspired by TV or nature?”

Lately it has been extremely windy and I pause often to look out the window at the natural pond beyond our garden where a neighbor’s aluminum pontoon raft is floating about. It has not been tethered for months, drifting amidst the seed pod casings shed from the overhanging trees following recent thunder storms. I liken the seeds to the spiritual potential we all have, the raft a symbol of the prayerful freedom that is ours when we un-tether ourselves from narrow, close-minded judgments.

From the time when I was a child hoeing up Mom’s lawn to plant nasturtium seeds, it seems I have always been planting, growing, weeding and transplanting. Now we have our first grandson to enjoy, who at one year of age loves the outdoors and already scraped his knee from exuberantly running down the road and falling. A new nature boy in the making, I know that along with the rest of us earth tenders, he will come to understand that life is both a mystical and practical journey of tilling the heart, mind and soul.
Sometimes it requires patient commitment to the hard work of hand hoeing around new beginnings. Other times, it requires a leap of faith into the unknown when we wonder if we can make it from one transition to the next. Lastly though, life is best lived through relaxing and going with the flow of God’s presence --- wherever it takes us.

For Discussion:

1. What concerns are you spiritually tilling and working through right now?
2. What is a risk you have taken that required a leap of faith?
3. In what way does the symbol of the raft speak to you?

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