The Validity of Nature Adoration

An Essay By Sarah Bethany // 4/28/2010

(Wrote this a couple of summers ago, August '08)

My first contact of bare feet on the beach all summer was one of pure ecstasy. The warm dirty sand massaged my heels. I sunk into it, the depth and uneveness making me lumber like an elephant, but I went down, down, down, allowing my body to let go, to feel, to be, to sink deep into the earth and experience the millions of grains of sand on the skin of my feet: that takes a lot of letting do to do that. I released, became so surrendered that for five seconds my soul broke free and went wildly airborne, like a kite ripped from its string, tumbling upwards. There was no effort, no tugging - I just rose up suddenly and flew, like the sun is thrown into your face when you come around a bend in the road...and I went into pure white and gold.

This ecstasy - I don't know why I couldn't hold it. It lasted five seconds. Coming back into my regular self-consciousness, I had to deal with social situations. "There are people; where should I turn?" "Where is it best to situate my body?" "I am worried; I am conscious." This left me vaguely disappointed. Why didn't I have the power to hold ont that white and blue? Why do I live every day far from that moment? And why does a celestial shoot upwards happen only once who knows how many years?

I don't know, but I also don't know  why everyone else on the beach was not walking around with only an awareness of their surroundings, and not of themselves. But "becoming one with nature"  is not the right description for it. It is... not worrying, not thinking - "Where will I sit? What do the beach people think of me?" Having an awareness of something outside of yourself is focusing on something, like a bit of nature (right now I am looking at a goldfinch bobbing on a river reed) so that you lose yourself - that everything around that goldfinch becomes a blur.

You would think you'd see people wandering around the beach - no, floating - going where their impulse takes them, staring transfixed at the waves upon waves. But, no. We all need our excuses for going down to the beach: "bonfire", "kids", "It's what you properly do on a vacation". Summer novels and beach towels are our defense, our protection. Our reasons! "Oh, no, I am not going to worship nature; of course, I am only going to tan." In fact, I amost feel like I would not be legitimate beach-goer without a beach towel! I actually felt the need to take one down, so I could hide with those bright colors under my arm, and no one would look at me and think, "Who is that girl with the wet braid, wandering around?"

I thought to myself, "No one is standing up, gazing at the water." So to look less worshipful when I got there, I put my hands on my hips and matronly squinted my eyes in the sun, surveying the ocean with a practical frown. "I am not collapsing inside at its beauty. I am not melting, silly and sentimental, apart from all you beach-goers - not at all. Without even a towel or an umbrella? Hah. I am merely calculating how far I have to walk. ...Mm, nice day."

But then I wanted - oh, so desperately - to spring down to my knees and grasp the wet sand with both my hands, scoop it up like Ishamel's potent whale spermicide, and pat at its dimples of water. I wanted to swoop just like an infant would swoop to get a favorite toy - to be myself... white knees in the sand, wet sand so brown, with crunkles of shells a layer underneath... so you can't see them but only feel the delectable lumps under the silt.

But no one does those sorts of things over the age of eleven. I decided furtively I would save my worship for the cover of darkfall, or set my alarm for pink six o'clock in the morning. Then, I thought ruefully, early risers of shore-line cottages will observe me, too.

Sitting on the back porch of our rented place, writing this, my feet are cold. There is the faintest wash of purple across the marsh above the line of houses that rises behind the river reeds and a window in the house to my left is shining gold in the setting sun.

What is nature-worship? Is it valid? Could it be Christian? I ought to change the name; because what I am thinking of is nothing pagan. "With my body I thee worship," says the marriage rite. How can two people worship each other with their bodies unless Christ Himself is in each? God is in every particle of our bodies. He is not cold and separate and apart. Believe it in your core, that this Lord, Who is omnipresent, is in your nerves and bones. To deny it would be to deny some of His power and all of His omnipresence. I think its the same with nature. God can't be confined or defined spatially so it doesn't seem a mistake to say He is in the cells of a juicy stalk of pokeweed. He isn't the pokeweed - hasn't taken the form of it - but He is mystically everywhere. The only time we Catholics think He actually becomes united with the material world, is under the appearance of a wee bit of wheat and water - a form of nature, the host, which we actually do adore.

As to Christ being in us, ourselves, the most glorious piece of nature, I've always liked the practice Caryll Houselander in the "The Reed of God" suggests: saying (and trying to believe with all your heart), "Jesus Christ is present within me right now." I love it. It quickens and warms something in me. Wakes me up.

I think I'm going to call the whole concept I've been thinking about, nature-adoration. Catholics say they "adore" Mary which means they honor her without putting her on the level of or above God. Hence my non-pagan nature-adoration.


...Finishing this, I feel wrapped in a blanket. I am in a rocking-chair in Jonathan's big soccer sweatshirt. There's something about brother's - or boy's in general - sweatshirts. I am wrapped in God's love.


I loved this! I can't wait

I loved this! I can't wait for summer to hit the beach! :) No, but seriously, I've had some of my best conversations with God while walking in a woods, or on a beach, or just sitting on our back door-step. It's kind of like an outdoor prayer cathedral.... without worshiping nature, as you said.

Sar | Sat, 05/01/2010


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