I want to begin our spiritual journey of discovery in the “wilderness” at my home. It’s the best way I can demonstrate that all people, even those who claim to have no particular interest in nature, possess an innate desire to maintain some kind of regular contact with the natural world. Knowing this makes it easier to understand the spiritual significance of nature. (Much more on this later.)
My wife and I have tried to live in small communities and in rural areas. Our present home is no exception. It was new when we purchased it and located only a short walk from a beautiful grove of ancient live oaks. Within minutes, we can hike under their massive sheltering branches and then plunge into an “elfin forest” of native chaparral.
Still, we wanted nature even closer. So within days after moving in, we began the backbreaking task of planting ground cover, shrubs, and trees to cover the barren earth. We put out bird feeders and birdbaths and planted flowers that attracted butterflies and humming birds. We wanted nature at our doorstep; we wanted to look out our windows and see greenery; we wanted birds and other animals to feed in our yard. The hard work paid off. So far we have identified nearly forty different species of birds just looking out our living room windows. We’ve had raccoons, opossums, squirrels, rabbits, and lizards find nourishment in our yards.
My wife and I are not alone feeling this irrepressible urge to landscape. We are familiar with other newly developed neighborhoods, and without exception every resident moving in did the same thing we did: They immediately began to plant shrubs, trees, and grasses in order to maintain a semblance of nature around their homes.
This deep-seated desire to have nature close by is evident even with people living in condominiums and apartments; urban dwellers with little to no private outdoor space. If you live in a condo or apartment, look around you right now. What’s hanging on your walls? Probably at least a few photographs, paintings, or calendars of outdoor scenes—artificial “windows” to the out-of-doors you seldom get to visit.
Many homeowners also maintain a thriving indoor nursery. And their creativity holds no bounds. I’ve seen indoor plants sitting on kitchen tables, hanging from walls, drooping precariously from ceilings, floating in water-filled mason jars, and gasping for breath in terrariums. I’ve even seen houseplants sprouting out of a discarded shoe and growing out of a hole through a concrete slab floor. I think you get my point. Urban and suburban dwellers want nature close by.
This same desire to experience nature up-close goes well beyond what we do in and out of our personal homes. Millions of people flock to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and other national and state parks every year. Millions more visit zoos, aquariums, natural history museums, wildlife preserves, and botanical gardens. Corporately, especially in urban and suburban communities, cities set aside parks and nature preserves and prohibit development in exceptionally beautiful open space. Most Americans willingly support federal and state laws that protect wild habitats so that wolves, bears, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, and other animals can prosper—animals that few people will ever see in the wild.
For decades I’ve witnessed this phenomenon: The developed world clearly desires to maintain at least some contact with natural settings. There is something about the wilderness, wild animals, city parks, home gardens, and even pets that humans find intuitively gratifying to be around. Clearly, deep within the human soul, entrenched in the recess of our minds, something beckons us to nature. This “something” is God!
But what kind of God? This question will answered in next week’s blog article. ©