I feel closest to God when I am alone in nature. I also sense God’s presence when I am alone waiting at an airport watching the world walk by. At the quietest of times and at the most hectic and noise filled moments, God is present. What is important, I think, is the ability to be alone and observe and be filled with all the sensory images and feelings possible for the moment. To be an observer is to be with God in the moment.
I am a people watcher and a nature watcher. As a child and even now as an adult, I am happy to arrive an hour early at the airport to pick up a friend or go hours early to prepare for a flight departure. I can sit still and be perfectly happy watching the activity around me. My mind tries to fill in the details of life stories as I watch the movement and faces of waiting families and hectic travelers. And just as important is my passion to wonder about the wilds of my garden with camera in hand looking for the smallest life images of our world.
Somehow when we are children, we need to nurture the observer in each of us; a nugget of our being that never loses the desire to see beauty, see the life around us, sense the world that we live in, and be still amidst the quiet of a woodland path or the hubbub of an airport terminal. To be an observer is to know God in subtle and profound ways.
To be an observer enables us to discover a sense of place wherever we live. To observe is to learn about and know the landscape, the people, the history, the ebbs and flows of daily life, the sunrises and sunsets of a geographic region. This, in turn, inspires our deep love for our community and a desire to be responsible for it and take care of it for future use.
I was invited in early July to participate in a roundtable discussion on state parks with our new Secretary of Natural Resources in Maryland, Joe Gill. This event was co-sponsored by The Governor’s State Park Advisory Commission, Greenwell Foundation, and Friends of Maryland State Parks. It was a wonderful collaboration to bring interested parties together to talk about our state parks and how we use them and our vision for the future. State Parks are often the only opportunity available for people of all ages to spend time in nature. When we listen to a bird call high in a tree or feel the coolness as we sit under a trees canopy, we cannot help but sense the beauty in this world and learn to be still to know God’s presence. Let’s cherish our own garden spaces and our public gardens as special places to nurture our sense of beauty in this world.
To borrow a thought from the book, “Open Spaces, Sacred Spaces” by Tom Stoner and Carolyn Rapp and shared by then president, Jerry Waters, of the McElderberry Park Community Association: “Now there is something to fear...our soul’s desires not realized because we pandered to fear…All we perhaps have to do is make the simple (and yes, perhaps brave) decision to serve beauty and to only wink at fear.”
Our children are growing up with ever increasing challenges to find sustainable practices to serve our world populations. If we nurture the observer in our children at an early age, they will grow up never losing the ability to see beauty in their lives, whether embraced by nature or surrounded by movement and sound at an airport terminal. To see beauty is to feel hope, not fear, and to know God is present.
Anne Ridenour is a member of Christ Church, Chaptico. Share your thoughts and comments on Facebook.