By Rev. Dr. Wanda H. Kidd
Find three things in nature to fall in love with each day. That is advice my friend Devita Parnell passed along during the week she traveled with me on my sabbatical this winter. We were walking through the abandoned Sam Nail Ranch in Big Bend National Park when we were assailed by such raw beauty all around us that we struggled to take it all in. There was a creaking wind mill, purple prickly pear cactus and a quietness that is still hard to describe. As we stood soaking it all in, Devita said someone had told her once to get out in nature every day and to find three things to fall in love with. The person giving the directions might have meant to search until you found three things, but for us, finding things to love was not the problem. It was leaning into a way to process the vastness of nature surrounding us. It became our theme for the week.
After Devita left me in Abilene, Texas, I continued her advice. It was not difficult to accomplish on the road and in parks, it just took some intentionality. Sometimes it was a tree standing sentry beside a railroad track or looking at the sky when I made my last trip to the camp bathhouse before bed each night.
The long term aspect of the lesson is that I still see the world differently even weeks after my trip was abruptly brought to an end by the pandemic. I have never been a person who regularly communed with nature throughout my life. I appreciated it from a distance, marveled at its beauty as an art form, but as a rule, I did not walk amongst it or engage in its creation. I was not a big fan of buzzing insects nor perspiring, both of which were part of the experience. That all changed for me on my sabbatical. It seemed like a nice directive when Devita shared it, but it began to rewire my brain. I saw the whole world differently and it literally changed my relationship with God.
I find joy in things that have simply been a backdrop for my life; things that are now the lens that I view my daily life. I listened, felt, smelled and walked. All my life, I have heard others talk about nature and how it was life-giving for them, but I never understood it and as late as I am to the game, I think I finally get it.
Most people make extensive plans for their sabbaticals and I have enjoyed hearing about what people planned and carried out, but I am not sure anyone has been as changed as I have been by my journey to the desert. I came home and put little bitty seeds in little tiny pots and waited to see what God was going to allow to burst forth. I have built raised beds and watch my seed pots like a mother watches a sleeping baby and every day I look for three things in nature to fall in love with and through it, the wonder and mystery of God has reshaped my soul. Some days it is a tiny seed and some days it is in full bloom. Oh Lord, give me eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to share. Amen.
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