A few months ago representatives from the Southern Utah Wilderness Association (SUWA) had a meeting at my church to talk about nature and spirituality. As I started to share my thoughts on these topics and really think about what nature means to me, I started to have a very cathartic experience. I'm not sure why this experience was so cathartic; perhaps it was because I was excited to share my thoughts and feelings with others in a safe and like-minded environment. Whatever the reason was, I was excited to have the opportunity to really think about this subject.
When I was younger I grew-up in the country and constantly took advantage of all of the nature that surrounded me. I could run with my dog to a creek to swim and fish, track deer in the woods behind my house or even just watch the lighting bugs and listen to tree frogs on my front porch. I am extremely fortunate to have grown-up in this environment and I am extremely grateful for the appreciation I have gained of my surroundings.
Nature and spirituality are two things that go hand-and-hand for me. It is because of the joy I find in nature that I gain a sense of spirituality. Within nature I find peace, joy, solitude, balance and a sense of meaning that isn't always easy to put into words but is easy to experience. As I looked around the room that day at others, trying to find the right words to describe what nature and spirituality means to me, I started to notice how everyone in the room is so different and unique. We each have different styles, different colors, orientations, thoughts, speech and so on. We are all diverse and unique, as so often times found in nature. How many hundreds and thousands of variations of insects, fish, mammals, birds, reptiles and plant life are there? Is any one of these things more dominate than all the others? No. Are all of these things found in a balance with one another, each having a job, a purpose? Yes. For example, I once heard that there are 800 different species of ants. Wow. And each ant species has a specific role in a specific environment. Everything found in nature and everyone found in the room that morning all have their own diversity, uniqueness, gifts and order. It's as if we are all a puzzle piece in a beautiful picture, all having a place and enriching the final product.
It is in this rich diversity and my own uniqueness that I rest assured that there is purpose in my own life (I may not know what that purpose is, but nature teaches me that I do have one). I look out a window and gaze upon a dying tree. Just because the tree is dying, does it have any less of a purpose? No. its days of providing shade and fruit might be over, but its gifts are not. In due time the tree will fall and start to decompose, giving nutrients and support to new life and being a part of an on-going and intricate circle. I know I fall in there somewhere too, as well as everyone else that was in the room with me that morning. A very young and wise little girl once said,"If we look for the beauty in everything, then the whole world is a treasure."
As many of you may already know, I am passionate about working with people with disabilities. I love bringing people of different backgrounds and the environment together in a community. So often, when working with people with disabilities, outsiders might wonder, "What's the point?" But I know that people with disabilities, just like anyone else regardless of age, race, orientation, beliefs, etc., can enjoy the peace, joy, solitude and beauty that only the transformative power of nature can bring. I've heard time and time again that while someone with a disability is enjoying a rafting trip down the Colorado River, or snowshoeing in the mountains; that while enjoying nature is when the person feels like they don't have a disability! The beautiful things about nature is that it does not discriminate. A shooting star will still blaze across the sky whether you're in a wheelchair or not. The sun will still set on the magnificent Fisher Towers in southern Utah whether or not your child has Autism. And snow will still cover the mountain, trees will still grow into the sky and the seasons will come and go regardless of your abilities or diversities.
Through nature everything finds itself in balance with its surroundings and in that balance there is a certain peace which keeps me hopeful that if others can find this balance, then the future looks good for all.