June 24, 2022
As long as I can remember, I have found peace sitting or walking in nature. When I was a small child, my parents bought a house on a wooded lot near the James River. Like other kids, I had a swing set, a bike and lots of toys, but I found myself drawn to the woods as an escape. A tree house built on a tulip poplar by the previous owner was one of my favorite refuges and gave me a vantage point to observe the comings and goings of wildlife and neighbors. I loved watching the birds build nests and hunt for food. I made up stories about what was going on in their lives as they flitted around the nearby trees.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was praciticing a form of mindful meditation each time I got lost in observation of the natural world. I believe that early connection with the peaceful sensation that came after spending time “doing nothing” in my tree house was the kernel of the personal practice I continue today. Years later, when I was introduced to formal meditation with daily meeting for worship at the fire circle at camp, it felt natural to try to connect with God, spirit and light in the woods. Still today, I am most quickly able to center in nature, even if it is looking out the window on a snowy day or sitting in the back yard of my suburban home. When I can see the squirrels running up and down the trees, feel the air on my skin, smell the fresh scent of flowering trees and hear the birds singing to each other, I find serenity.