Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world.
-Edmund Hamilton Sears

I often think back upon the human angels in my life who took responsibility for me when they had no obligation to, and treated me with dignity and kindness when no one else did. I was just a confused wild street child, and I’m still just as crazy in many ways although I hide it better. But these people formed a human circle of kindness around me and tried to build me up. They simply loved me and accepted me, and patiently endured the madness that followed me wherever I went. I wouldn’t be comfortable today with someone like the youthful me around.

But they didn’t only minister to me. My angels tried to make the world a little bit better by sounding their trumpets against violence of any kind, watching for misuse of nature or its creatures, and whatever brand of injustice seemed to be sneaking into the lives of common people. Those hippie angels were the best kind, and they formed my view of the world in many ways, teaching me that it was impossible to love God and not love your neighbors, your planet, and all those beautiful creatures.

If there was an archangel among them all, it was surely Evelyn who introduced me to so many other angels during my journey. I remember Evelyn telling me that the root word of the word “violence” was akin to the root of the word “silence.” She said that if we remain silent in the face of evil, we are no different than the one who is committing the acts of violence.

I wonder why we Christians ignore so many things that ultimately will affect our children, knowing that they might not be able to enjoy the things that we have enjoyed. It’s disturbing to me that my sons might not be able to see the glaciers or have clean air or water, or even eat real corn or oats if we replace everything with genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). And it upsets me to see the economic inequity that is happening our society, knowing the misery that it could cause to ordinary people in future generations. Where is our Christian love towards our own children, and humanity at large?

I’ve heard Christians say that this is all just part of Biblical prophecy, and the world is going to be destroyed whenever God is ready. So many believers sit in comfort and pray and preach while the future of our children is being thrown out like trash. There is nothing spiritual about apathy. How can anyone expect to please God while displaying this kind of attitude? A Jewish friend of mine once told me that he thinks there might be more Marxists in heaven because Christians only think of themselves and their own souls. That is quite an indictment against the Western version of faith, and very troubling to me personally. Christ said that all the law and the prophets hang upon two commandments: to love God and our neighbor.

Sometimes I really miss those hippie angels who taught me to be an active part of the redemptive process in the world. One of them told me that it was our job to try to make the world as much like Eden as possible, even if all of our efforts fail. The way we serve people is equivalent to serving God, according to Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats.  Without human angels who strive to restrain evil, this world will only hasten to become more dark and terrible.

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A few weeks ago I noticed that the wreath next to my door was looking dirty so I thought I would clean it up. But when I took a closer look, I realized that some bird had constructed a little nest inside a large loop of the pink mesh ribbon. The nest was a bit smaller than the palm of my hand, made of sticks and dry grass and lined with downy white feathers. I was so pleased and excited about the prospect of eggs and a hatching family. I found myself taking a peek whenever I passed by.

First I noticed two rose finches hopping in and out of the wreath whenever I walked inside or outside. It seemed like a lot of trouble to always have to dart out of the nest so quickly, but they didn’t seem to mind the effort. They would fly out with roller coaster dips and swirls into a tree across the street, or sometimes they would hop onto the roof and look curiously at me. The father would puff out his rose colored chest and tilt his beak. The mother was brown like a sparrow, but seemed to have a little tuft on her head. I named the two of them Atticus and Scout.

One day after the nearby lawn was mowed, I noticed Atticus perched on the porch rail with a beak full of grass, and it looked like a tiny brown star. He paused for a second to look at me, dropped his little star and flew away. Soon I noticed him and Scout perched side by side on the rain gutter looking down at me. I decided to put a small table under the wreath, and filled a little bowl there with sunflower seeds. Very soon, the porch began to get messy with shells everywhere, little purple berry poops, and mutilated worms. Were the birds bringing me presents or just having breakfast?

The happy incident took place on Easter morning! I spotted four little pale blue eggs in the nest. I began to read about the average times for birds to hatch and mature, and kept putting out sunflower seeds for the happy couple. I was looking forward to hearing the chirps of baby birds in the nest.

A few days later, there was a fifth egg on the edge of the nest. My father told me to read about the Magpie and said that some birds steal other birds’ nests. I told him that sounds like some people I know. One day I spied a handsome mockingbird fluttering in and out of the nest. I wondered what he was doing there. A chickadee started popping up every day and I didn’t see Atticus around anymore.

One day I saw that the mysterious fifth egg had fallen off the edge of the nest and into the seed dish. I wondered if Scout had deliberately kicked it out. It was broken into two halves and I could see the yellow lining. A few days after that I noticed that two more of the eggs had been moved out of the nest towards the edge. I wondered why, but I put a little blanket on the table to catch falling eggs and prevent breakage. It didn’t work, because soon two more were broken on the floor of the porch. A fourth one tumbled and shattered soon after that.

One little pale blue egg remains and it has been there alone now for over a week and the parents seem to have deserted it. I found myself feeling sorry for it and even identifying with it. All of its siblings are broken and the nest is empty. I picked it up and turned it towards the sunlight, and through the shell it looks like candy corn with gold on the bottom and white on top.

I don’t know if it will ever hatch or if Scout will return, but I suppose I will eventually adopt it. I will take its nest out of the wreath and place it on the mantle. Then I will sweep up the carnage on the porch- the egg fragments and worms and poops and twigs and sunflower shells. I have found out that we humans are not the only creatures that know how to make messes of our lives, and that mistakes are just as natural as the seasons.

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I’m in Tennessee now and it’s stinkbug season…I used to think I could be a naturalist, but one problem always prevented me: INSECTS.

I wrote an essay about this problem during graduate school.  We were discussing nature writing, and I decided I would try my hand at it.  My mentor loved this piece entitled “Insect Armageddon.”   I hope you enjoy.

Peace,  Olive Twist!!

~♥~

C.S. Lewis, the Christian apologist, believed that animals go to Heaven when they die, because Isaiah the prophet speaks of the Holy Mountain being inhabited by more animals than humans.  Someone once asked Lewis, “If animals go to Heaven, what will become of the mosquitoes?”  Lewis replied that “A heaven for mosquitoes could be combined with a hell for man.”

I can attest to the fact that such a place already exists, where men are tormented for their sins and insects have dominion: the state of Florida.  Many northerners have discovered this punishment at the time of their retirement, having thought they were moving south to tropical paradise and Jimmy Buffet songs.

I will not even embark upon issues such as the relentless heat and no seasons, the hurricanes and power outages that follow every storm, the wharf rats, the stinging jellyfish, the rabid raccoons, or the water moccasins that lurk in lakes, awaiting some brazen tourist who might decide to skinny-dip.  I will tell only of that which I despise the most: the bugs. I have always despised bugs and regard them with a mixture of contempt and dread.  Every autumn, I begin to pray for a winter harsh enough to send them all into early graves.

One summer my sons and I moved to Oregon, because most of our relatives live on the west coast and the weather is milder.  After about two months there, I asked my young sons what they missed the most about Florida.  My six-year-old quickly replied, “I miss the giant rhinoceros beetles that crawl around the parking lots, and those big locusts that are green and yellow and orange with zebra stripes on them.”  His big blue eyes were glowing with purity.

“You miss those?” I asked, trying not to look disgusted. “Not me.”  I mumbled a prayer that we would never go back, but we unfortunately did.

As we drove back into Florida, I opened the car window and could hear the cicadas chirping loudly in the trees.  They’ve been waiting for me, I thought with horror.  They are like giant flies that are naturally attracted to long hair, and nothing is worse than trying to shake one out while it rattles like madness in your ear, and you shriek and do a nerve dance until it falls out.

But the great demon of the south is the roach.  Some of them fly, such as the giant palmetto bug.  Once I lived in an old two-story house with a group of friends, and a man was cooking spaghetti and garlic bread in the kitchen. He had a neat stack of bread on a corner of the table and we noticed a huge roach on the ceiling several feet away.  Its antennae were shaking excitably, and it suddenly did a sky dive with no parachute and landed perfectly on top of that tall bread castle, where it seemed to be quite content with its plunder.  I did not eat that night.

Most roaches crawl with wriggling hungry antennae in garbage cans, on kitchen counters, and through windowsills and crevices.  In the middle of the night, when you go to the kitchen for a cookie and milk and you turn on the light, they flee like desperate soldiers behind the fortress of the stove.  When you open a cupboard in the daytime, one might rustle behind the sugar bag, or you might spy their eggs like tiny white bullets in the corner.

Once I was lying in my bed, and I heard a sound as soft as silk slippers on the venetian blinds over my head.  I leapt from my bed and cut on the light, and was amazed that I had even been able to hear it.  The roach, I mean.  My ears are ultra-sensitive to insects, especially roaches.  I wake up everyone in the house for such occasions, and won’t let anyone rest until the skirmish is finished and the culprit has met his demise.

The pest control man can’t stand me. I laugh with victorious delight whenever his Ghostbuster truck pulls into the driveway with its giant canisters of poison and ammunition. I call him any time I see one bug, and I make him spray the whole house again, since it is included in my service agreement.  Though most people have switched to annual pest service, I expect my house to be sprayed once per month inside and out.  I let him know when I think it’s time for more bait behind the kitchen drawers and under the sinks.  I know he gets sick of dealing with me.

I can’t leave out the termites and giant ants. I called the termite man to come and tell me about a tree that looked like it was dissolving to sawdust all by itself.  He looked at it and said, “I can’t do anything about that tree, because it is within three feet of your house, and we don’t do indoor service for you.”  So I called the pest control man, and he says, “I can’t touch that tree because it’s not part of the house.  So the bugs have all figured out where the no-kill zone is, and they continue to prosper there and raise their families. I once thought it would be funny to put up a “roach crossing” sign in front of our house.

Should I embark upon the subject of mosquitoes carrying diseases like malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis?  Or have you ever awakened to find a tick burrowing in your flesh?  How about those wasps with great stingers and long legs that hover around the eaves looking for a victim?

Once I had a crazy dream that I was looking with curious disdain at a display of insects in some laboratory.  As I analyzed one big furry bug with wings pinned to a board resembling an insect Hellraiser, the bug suddenly squirmed and opened its eyes and started talking.  I jumped back in horror, as it told me about the injustice and misfortune of its life and how it ended up being nailed by some entomologist. It was like a horror movie scene and I woke up sweating and feverish.  I wondered if I was like Hannibal Lechter to the bug world.

As I sat shaking on the edge of my bed, I thought:  Perhaps I have misjudged these little creatures.  Perhaps they are only innocent civilians. Perhaps they are really cute and cuddly if you get to know them.

One tiny baby roach wriggled on my dresser.  I grabbed my hairbrush and smacked it into eternal bliss.  No, even my Quaker beliefs must be suspended for this war, this enmity.  I cannot love these hellions in paradise.

(See Isaiah Chapter 11 and The Problem of Pain, chapter 9)


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This is one of the most exquisite photographs I’ve ever seen to illustrate the extraordinary beauty of God’s sanctuary!

Please click on the link above to read more about it…

Peace and Grace,

Olive Twist

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I’ve had several experiences in my life that made me think of the verse “He who sits in the heavens laughs,” and this is one of them.

I was on vacation with my family one spring and we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky.  We liked visiting there from time to time to see the horse farms and the art galleries and the Henry Clay estate and other sites. We also enjoyed the lovely arboretum by the university campus, and I loved to play hide-and-go-seek with the chipmunks and rabbits. Especially the chipmunks. We didn’t have them in Florida. It sounds silly, but these little creatures were a big deal to me.

Well, during this particular vacation, I did not spy any chipmunks in their usual places.  I looked in the branches of the twisted crabapple trees and throughout the vines covering the gazebos and among the flowers.  But there were none.  I complained and complained about it several days in a row.

So, Sunday arrived and I decided to visit a Wesleyan church in the area. My son and I got all dressed up and drove to the church, and timidly we walked in and sat down among strangers. Someone handed me a program, and I started to read, when something caught my eye.  On the top of the program, it showed the pastor’s name: Chip Monck!  I pointed it out to my son and we were chuckling quietly together about how I was finally going to see a chipmunk.  But alas!  Someone stepped up to the microphone and announced that Pastor Monck was on vacation. I was destined to see no chipmunks that season…

I imagined that God was having a good laugh over the situation, and I felt a rather spooky feeling come over me…I know it sounds unbelievable but this really happened.

~♥~

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I had a dream that I was standing in the grass behind a great Victorian style mansion with a woman who healed animals.  It was a gusty and cloudy day. The sky was full of birds soaring through a web of branches and wind, and she could just reach out her hand and catch a bird.

She held them and turned them over lovingly, inspecting their stomachs and legs and wings for wounds or diseases.  As she touched their infirmities with her beautiful graceful hands, they were instantly healed.  Then she opened her hands and released them.

She also attended to a small sick kitten, feeding it green grapes as part of its healing.  I knew something spiritual was happening, because a predator was eating fruit.

Isaiah the prophet wrote of how “there would be no hurt or harm” in the Holy Mountain, and I can’t help but notice there seem to be more animals than humans there, and more children than adults:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

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“Love all God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.  If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.”  Fyodor Dostoevsky

 I once saw an amazing film by Spanish filmmaker Luis Bunuel entitled “Simon of the Desert” and one scene touched me profoundly.  The pure ascetic Simon bent down to bless a tiny grasshopper.  When asked about the scene during an interview, Bunuel said that a really pure person will want to bless everything around them.

Animals have always filled me with awe and a sense of mystery. These pictures of bears and tigers hanging around with monks convince me that even wild beasts can perceive purity of heart, and that Isaiah Chapter 11 is truly a glimpse of a world to come…

“For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God…For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Romans 8:19, 22

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

Photo credits:  http://simplyorthodox.tumblr.com/

http://www.lmao.com/acting-like-animals-share-the-lunch/

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