“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength
that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing
in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after
night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Trees standing in the woods behind the monastery welcome me, shelter me from the sun, stand with me as silent friends, and pray for me. They trust me, shedding their green summer garb each year to allow me to behold their vulnerability, their nakedness. Even with nothing to hide behind – no leaves, no flowers, no fruit – they are still so lovely. With each season they live out conversatio morem, conversion of life and heart, opening themselves over and over again to “the new thing” (Is. 43:19) God is doing. Their dignity strengthens me.
Visiting Gooseberry Falls during the spring thaw, I see more bare trees like the ones behind the monastery, but these grow out of the side of rocky cliffs, their roots like thick tendrils of hair rooted in the scalp of the earth, searching for every bit of moisture they can in the barren landscape they call home. Their exposed roots strengthen my heart’s longing for stability, for rootedness in what is nurturing and life-giving.
The waterfalls thunder as the ice breaks loose and the spring-heavy river rushes over the edge of the waterfall. The falls are beautiful, powerful, deadly, all at the same time, and they demand to be heeded, honored, just to be. The water’s edge brings me back to beginnings, to baptism, to cleansing, to a promise to “listen with the ear of your heart”.
All of nature begs to give her gifts of strength, courage and faithfulness to us. Even the dandelion growing in a gravel path sings a song whose refrain cannot, should not be ignored: “The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, His compassion is not spent. They are renewed each morning – great is your faithfulness!” (Lam. 3:22-23).
The refrain repeats. Are we listening?
Sister Ann Marie Wainright
Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges.