Mount Olivet’s Caretakers of God’s Creation Committee has been holding monthly Spirit and Nature walks in local parks. Due to the COVID19 pandemic and governmental restrictions on group gatherings, we would suggest that your family or living group hold its own Sprit and Nature walk near where you live, perhaps in your back yard.
A Proposed Family Spirt and Nature walk for April and May
Theme of the walk: Healing and Renewing
Spring, most years, is a time of great joy. The snows have melted, rain showers have come. Temperatures are finally rising. Days are longer. Plants come up from the ground. The daffodils, tulips, redbuds and dogwoods are blooming. Wildflowers come up in our lawns. If we look carefully, we can even see the maples and oaks blooming.
If you have a water source nearby, turtles and frogs are emerging from the muck on the ponds. Dragon flies and butterflies start to appear and wild birds return from a winter far south of here. It is a time of the Earth reawakening. Never does it seem more like we have a glimpse of what Eden must have been like.
Spring is literally a time of rebirth and new birth. It is now accident that Easter comes for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere just as Spring bursts forth. Spring comes after the long winter, after the death of much life in the natural world around us. Just as Easter comes after Good Friday and Christs death, Spring comes after the death caused by winter.
In both the natural world and the spiritual world, death is a constant reality. As just as we believe spiritually that our personal death to this life is not the end of our connection to God, in Nature everything dies only to be re-used, most often in ways that creates new life or at least nourishes new life.
As you walk in the area, look for the large trees that have fallen years ago. Small trees will be coming up near where they fell. Look for bugs and worms in their decaying wood. If you watch very carefully, you might see voles (small mice like rodents) climb up to eat the bugs. You will certainly see chipmunks and squirrels running around on the log. Rabbits and foxes might be making their dens under the log. The foxes eat the mice and voles eating the bugs and worms. The tree died, but is the nursemaid to much more life.
Opening your walk:
Start with a prayer or read this poem by Christina Rosetti—The Spring.
You know your family, so choose another reading about Spring that is age appropriate if necessary.
“What makes their sap ascend
That they may put forth shoots?
Tips of tender green,
Leaf, or blade, or sheath;
Telling of the hidden life
That breaks forth underneath
Life nursed in its grave by Death.”
A time of looking around the natural space around you:
After asking the group members to say how are they today (in five words or less), ask where do you see rebirth in the natural world? Trees leafing out, tadpoles and wildflowers appear, etc.
Does any of this remind you of spiritual rebirth?
(If your family is dealing with sickness and death, this may be skipped. Also take care to emphasize that God cares for Nature, but that Nature is God’s Creation, not God.)
Ask your group how do they feel about Spring?
How does Spring make them feel.
Scavenger Hunt 1:
Send the members of your group on a hunt for the signs of nature in decay—rotting logs, worms, insects, etc. Come back together and share what you found, just be sure to put thing back where you found them.
Scavenger Hunt 2:
Look for signs of new life, flowers, birds (bird’s nests), little rabbits and squirrels, etc. Again, unless this is your own yard, don’t put up anything and take it with you.
Come back together and ask:
How does the Earth need to be renewed? How can we help with that?
Play BINGO in Nature with your family:
Go to myfreebingocards.com and make your own bingo cards by entering words of natural items: oak, cherry, daffodil, bird song, maple, fern, any other parts of nature that are in your natural area. It takes some time to make the cards, but they are free and will give you a third way of exploring nature this Spring.
Depending on your group, have a time a time of solitude, where participants can sit or walk around nature in quiet. Have them share what they experienced when they come back.
Ask how we can continue to explore and connect to nature when we go home. What changes can we make to be better Caretakers of God’s Creation? Ask again how the individuals are feeling (again in 5 words or less, offer up something like: new energy from Spring.
Close with Psalm 104: 1-28 or Mary Oliver’s poem “At Blackberry Pond” or Wendell Berry, “Meditation in the Spring Rain”.
Mostly enjoy the time in Nature with your family or other members of your household. In this time of quarantine and isolation, exploring the nature that is right outside your door, will help you both worship God and heal your spirit. Enjoy!
Note: this format is derived from the work of the Center for Nature and Spirituality, an interfaith group that the National and Conference Caretakers of God’s Creation has helped fund. Dr. Beth Norcross its founder is a member of Fairlington United Methodist Church