Listening to Nature

Mar 10, 2013 | Field Notes

The days are growing longer here. Even without advancing our clocks by an hour we would have noticed this change in the seasons. Spring is, indeed, just around the corner. We in Vancouver seem to get a jump on the rest of Canada in this regard. The crocuses are up now; daffodils are close to blooming; some cherry blossoms are to be seen; and even today, one of my neighbours is cutting the grass. I myself am hoping to put off getting my push mover out at least for a few more weeks.

Despite the evidence of the advent of spring, winter still has its hold. The rains will continue here on the coast for a while and in most parts of Canada one needs to be prepared, shovel in hand, for the next snowfall. While I do long for spring, I find myself continuing to appreciate the opportunities in winter. The slower pace of life and the time for reflection during this season of listening are gifts that I do not wish to relinquish too easily. It seems to me that these gifts are absolutely necessary for a balanced life. Like many people I too easily succumb to the demands to rush through life and to lead an unreflective life.

The philosophical claim that ‘the unreflective life is not worth living’ has merit. Reflection is important for life, of course, but so is acting. We need both action and reflection in life because both action and reflection are essential to human living. My actions include everything from doing the daily dishes to working for justice and every action in between. My reflection includes everything from listening to silence daily to pouring through the stacks of books I have and pondering in between. To live fully both these dimensions of life and to try to do so with balance and moderation is the task before me.

The natural seasons of the year help me in this task of balancing and moderating. Winter provides a context for more reflection while summer often provides time for more action. Spring and fall, two transition seasons, provide gifts that help me to balance these two dimensions. So, for me, attuning to the natural seasons simply helps me in my spiritual life. Perhaps that is why the natural world is so integral to spirituality and why so many religions incorporate the symbols of nature to express their teachings. In the spiritual life we need to pay attention to nature. If we do nature will help us attend to our spiritual life. The resulting dialogue between persons and nature holds potential for insights on how to pursue a path that protects nature, the human species, and all of creation. Such a path is sorely needed in our day.

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