-by Jason Merritt
“In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith”
– Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson,
For the past seven years I have lived, worked, prayed, and played in the mountains of Western North Carolina. This week I completed my move to Cincinnati, Ohio, to join Forward Movement’s outstanding staff, an inspiring team of writers, editors, and creative people. After weeks of planning and packing, the journey afforded me a beautiful departure from my adopted mountain home, one last winding trip through the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains on my way north.
As the mountains faded into the mirror, I began to think of the many memories I made in their midst, and of the deeply spiritual moments of sitting atop an overlook looking out upon what Emerson calls the “plantations of God.” I wondered where I’d find those moments in my next home—wondered how hard I would have to look to find God’s masterpiece in the city.
I have always been drawn to nature. Drawn to the ineffable healing that a deep breath of fresh air can have on lungs weary from the difficult conversations of life. Drawn to the cathartic rhythm of flowing water–whether it be the salty waves of my Florida youth, or the rushing mountain creeks where I discovered my obsessive desire to quietly cast a fly for hours in the hopes of bothering a brook trout for a spell.
Clarity can be found there. Perhaps you too have experienced the moments of peace and prayer that nature effortlessly provides. Perhaps you too have wondered if you can find those same moments once you’ve returned to the concrete and steel.
This week I was waiting to cross a street in downtown Cincinnati on my way to the office, focused on everything but nature. Spring is bounding through the city however, and a breeze moved through a nearby tree, the leaves casting a familiar tone my direction. I looked up from reading emails on my phone and allowed my eyes to drift up to the clouds passing between the buildings, on their way to greet another city—and perhaps another soul in need of clarity on a hectic day.
It was a short, but successful moment of prayer and peace. Even better, it was a reminder I greatly needed.
We often spend our lives seeking reason and faith among the complex worlds we have built around ourselves—and we may find it on occasion—however, my hope is that today you will take 5 minutes to seek them in the wondrous creation that had been gifted to us each day. It may be a little harder to find in the city or office, but I assure you it’s there if you seek it.
Look up. Look around. Look down, even. See the beauty of creation. And breathe.