Friday, September 2, 2011

The Book of Nature

New Nesting Moon
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When I was 21 I began observing the moon. I was well versed in the natural history and geology of my environment, but was woefully ignorant of how the sun and the moon cycles worked. Maybe I was inspired by the months on end of clear skies in Southern Oregon or maybe it was my continuing interest in nature based spirituality. Maybe it was God tapping me on the shoulder and pointing her finger at something I should check out. Whatever it was, I faithfully watched the moon for cycle after cycle that year.

What I found amazed me. I was enthralled by the shapes the moon takes, the patterns on its surface and the relationship between the moon and the sun. I watched the moon wax and wane, and also found myself watching the seasons wax and wane. I saw the sunset move up and down the crest of the hills and the angle of light rise and fall with the seasons. I felt how the earth seems to wake up, be full, release its energy and then hibernate as the seasons wax and wane like the moon herself. I kept watching, kept observing month after month, year after year. The rhythms of day, month, season and year started to feel natural and deep, like my own heart beat and breathing.

I have felt God's presence in nature for much longer than I have ever felt it anywhere else. I knew the liturgy of growing plants long before I knew any church liturgy and heard God's voice in song birds and streams long before I heard it in a meeting for worship. Today, my primary language for accessing God is still the language of the living earth and especially of the natural rhythms of the sun and the moon. I see all life moving in these cycles, from the compact and huddled seed in winter, to the shooting growth of spring, the fullness and flowering of summer into the dissipating, conserving, slowing comfort of autumn. Gardens, creative projects, human lives and even civilizations move in these cycles. Breathing into these cycles, living fully in them and allowing them to unfold seems to me to be the best, highest and closest to God way to live my life.

Our culture seems to be an always on, always up, always growing kind of culture. But do you remember what cells that don't stop growing are called? Cancer. Plants that don't stop growing, like kudzu or English Ivy, are choking weeds. Sun that doesn't stop shining creates deserts like the lifeless land of the planet Venus. I feel deep in my bones that cycles of growth and constriction allow a chance for starting over, for assessing the last period of growth and for resting. I know God is in all parts of this cycle. I feel her in the pruning and contracting of autumn just as much as in the growth and light of spring. God is even in the hibernation and death of winter. God, my mother, knows and loves me through all parts of the cycle. God, my father, uses the cycle to encourage me to grow and challenge myself. The book of nature and the book of time are, to me, the fullest and most beautiful books God has written to help me navigate my life. And all I have to do is watch.

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This post was inspired by both my Quaker Meeting's literary journal query for the Autumn and a Rob Breszny horoscope from a couple weeks ago. The query is "How have you experienced god's presence in nature?" (which I chuckled at a bit - I've been writing about that twice a month for three years and still haven't exhausted all I could write about) and the horoscope is below:

Storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estes loves life's natural rhythms just as they are. She says we can avoid a lot of suffering if we understand how those rhythms work. "The cycles are birth, light, and energy, and then depletion, decline, and death," she told Radiance magazine. In other words, everything thrives and fades, thrives and fades. After each phase of dissipation, new vitality incubates and blooms again. According to my analysis of the astrological omens, Virgo, you are currently going through a period of dwindling and dismantling. The light is dimmer than usual, and the juice is sparser. But already, in the secret depths, a new dispensation is stirring.

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New Nesting Moon 2009: Breathe a Sigh of Relief

New Nesting Moon 2010: Ramadan

My Summer Solstince/Pagan Value's Blogging Month post from this summer is on a similar theme of cycles in nature: Circles, Cycles and Pulses: Pagan Values Blogging Month

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes I was here, brought here by Quaker Pagans yahoo group. I love the photo of the moon above the trees. Thank you for the reminder of the cycles of nature. Beautiful.