Nature Bathing: Soak in Beauty

Nature, beauty, holiness. If you’ve ever spent a long, cold winter night in the wilderness huddled into your sleeping bag for warmth you probably understand why ancient people’s worshiped the sun. Those first, glorious warm rays of light breaking the horizon are like salvation washing over your shivering body, it doesn’t matter that the winter sun isn’t really warm. It’s return means that we have survived yet another night, it is hope and joy and relief.

In a world that grows increasingly digital and concrete nature has taken on nearly magical properties. It is mysterious and other, so separated from our daily lives as to be almost mythic. In the quiet stillness of the forest anything is possible, the light pouring green and soft through filtering leaves could reveal a whole imagined would around every bed. The softly greened rocks in the tumbling brook with their emerald coats of moss hiding little miracles in their skirts. The bird calling far up in the canopy might as well be an angel, the messenger of an ancient God, forehead carrying the heavy weight of massive antlers, feet as quiet as the deer.

Our souls need beauty. Not just the stark clean beauty of the art museum or the sculpture park, not even the wild acoustic beauty of a concert thrumming with string and drum. We need the steady earth pulse that is the natural world. The rhythm of waves on the beach, is the heartbeat of everything, if they ever stopped we all would, our hearts breaking together against the drying rocks. We are the little round spheres of sand worn by the patient work of those waves from great rocks and whole continents into a collection of sparkling bits who have no idea how wonderful their existence is.

The mountains, so solid under our feet remind us that they are still growing, thrusting upward and wearing down inevitably. That even rock as old as the world must change, and if they must grow and fade then so must we. Standing the hard grey slopes of Kilimanjaro, Tahoma, or Denali we might, if we are still is the mountain’s bones feel her moving still, feel the whole slow march of our own species, a mere blink of her eye. Those great mountains of the Waterberg who remember the dinosaurs first tentative steps only yesterday who are still waiting for the next mammoth print against their stony selves, have only begun to feel the first reverberations of our own tiny strides.

Sun setting over the Warterberg mountains

This whole great breathing world, her ocean of blood, her green lungs, her blue skin shining in the light of an impossible sun. It is all there, miracles waiting for us to open our eyes, to fall to our knees in joy and overwhelm because here we are. Here we are despite all the odds, little cells of her. Little beings who have woken up enough to see and wonder and shiver at the greatness of which we are just a tiny part. You can bathe in her forests, drinking down their slow quiet. Growing still as the trees, putting down roots into good rich soil and feeling all over your bark the little sparks of life that flare and go out in blinks of an eye, no more precious because of their brief life.

If you need it, here is your invitation. Your Mother is calling, she misses you. Find a patch of green, no matter how small. A daisy in the windowsill, a bit of park, the weeds thrusting up through the cracks in the pavement. Drive out to the dirt roads and the rolling hills, or up into the mountains. Get your feet into the surf. Find your patch of beautiful miraculous planet and spend a moment. Breathe in, deep and long. A little longer. Marvel that the mixture of molecules in that breath is exactly what you need to keep breathing! Let it out, let it out knowing that the world can take whatever’s inside you. So let it all out, let the ground soak it up, the breeze blow it away. Let the flowers nestle it down into their pollen and spread it around on the bees until it’s thin as dust and gone.

Just be. Be as simply as the waves, and the mountains, and the snow lying hidden in the shadows of thehills on this hot and sunny day. Be as surely as the robin hopping around the lawn ear cocked for worms making their slow blind way among the grass. Let go of the need to be in charge, to finish, to win. Let go of the need to be well, or different. Every bit of sand is exactly as it must be for the beach to hold it’s shape, for the mountain to rise up so high. Every cell of the cedar just as it should be for it to rise up so high, reaching for the sun. And you are there, just as you need to be in all your humanness, your brokenness, your youness. If the world needed something other than you she would have made that, but she didn’t. She made you. None of us know why, perhaps that is the journey of our lives. Or perhaps our journey is to learn to be as simply, as acceptingly as the wolf padding through the forest on quiet feet. To be like the moose up to her belly in cool water.

Bird flying low over the waves

Here is the wild truth nature can teach you, your own truth. I cannot share it here, I don’t know it. I can hear from her only my own truth. And you must listen for yours with your own ears, the only ones who can hear that particular song. Meeting nature for the first time, or the thousandth and knowing that her name is Beauty, and Mystery. Sharp edged, cutting. This is not the soft beauty of civilization that pretends. This is the hard diamond edged beauty that knows death and life are one and the same. That hides nothing from those who are willing to look. Who knows no fear, for there is nothing to fear if your heart beat and the ocean are one. There is nothing to fear if your bones are the mountains, and the great cedar trees.

There is no need here to believe anything. You can follow any religion you chose, or none. The forest and the mountain and the ocean have no creed. There is no need to believe in the gravity that holds the whole together, in the cycles that make creation breathe. They simply are, and here our little gerbil brains, running constantly in wheels can catch a glimpse of that which simply is. That which needs no belief, that which follows no creed but its own essence. Here is your God, your Mystery, your Wonder. Whatever you chose to call Her, or not. You and she are still one, wrapped up together in the beating heart of all that is. Sharing the same blood and bone.

Come away, meet Wonder yourself. Let your soul drink from the geyser of her presence. Go home refreshed, go home with the forest in your heart, and your heart in the sea all mixed up together in a miracle that is living. Go home and realize you’ve never left, and always been gone. Laugh at the impossibility of it all. You after all are incredibly unlikely and yet here you are. And the caterpillar, and the starling, and the daisy all so unlikely they cannot possibly be, and yet. They are.

Have you ever found the Divine in nature? What was that experience like? Please share your own encounters with holiness in the natural world here!

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