the trees of the field will clap their hands...

Looking out of my study window this afternoon, the wetlands and woods are clearly singing
God's praise in their anticipation of the autumnal equinox. Various snippets from the songs of ancient Israel show up as I contemplate nature's beauty:

+ Psalm 148:  Praise the Lord, o sun and moon; praise God all you shining stars! 
Praise God, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for God commanded and they were created.  God established them for ever and ever; fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.  Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!  Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

+ Psalm 98: Let the rivers clap their hands and the mountains sing together for joy.

+ Isaiah 55: You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

+ Luke 19: 40:  If my disciples did not shout for joy, and kept quiet then these stones would cry out!

At various times in the past I have been drawn to the writing of Parker Palmer, particularly his reflections on the spirituality of the seasons, where he observes:

Seasons are a wise metaphor for the movement of life... It suggests that life is neither a battlefield nor a game of chance, but something infinitely richer, more promising, more real. The notion that our lives are like the eternal cycle of the seasons does not deny the struggle of the joy, the loss or the gain, the darkness or the light, but encourages us t5o embrace it all - and to find in all the opportunities for growth. (I would use depth.) We do not believe we "grow" our lives - we believe that we "make" them... and so from an early age, we absorb our culture's arrogant conviction that we manufacture everything, reducing the world to mere "raw material" that lacks all value until we impose our designs and labor on it. (Let Your Life Speak, pp. 96-97)

But the field and trees behind my home don't believe such foolishness:  they reach up and out in thanksgiving and remind me that ALL of creation is grace. It is a gift - and my calling is to respond with gratitude.  During autumn the wisdom of God's first word in nature offers an invitation to look beyond both the obvious beauty of the leaves and warm air as well as earth's movement towards the death of winter. This moment is a celebration of both - never one or the other - but always a reminder that "living is hidden within dying."  It is a paradox where the opposites do "not negate each - they cohere in the mysterious unity that is at the heart of reality."

Deeper still, they need each other for health, as my body needs to breathe in as well as breathe out. But in a culture that prefers the ease of either-or thinking to the complexities of paradox, we have a hard time holding opposites together. We want light without darkness, the glorious of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter - and the Faustian bargains we make fail to sustain our lives. When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the close, there can only be one result: artificial light that  is glaring and graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more terrifying as we try to hold it off. Split off from each other neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. But if we allows the paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring wholeness and health to every living thing. (p. 100)

At this late date in life I am just beginning to appreciate,and maybe even trust, the wisdom of God's first word revealed in nature:  it is always both/and - wholeness and health is about balancing and honoring the paradox - even the challenge of discerning life within what is dying.


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