Story and photos by Cindy Haverkamp
“Come let us stray our gladsome way and view the charms of Nature.”
– Robert Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire
The clarion call that demands we “do something” before a climate catastrophe befalls us is ever-present on the news and on social media. Our sense of doom and a feeling of shame over what has been proven to be a human-caused emergency can cause us to feel overwhelmed and helpless.
In this article, I will ask you to take a deep breath, preferably outdoors, and remember that while many of us are losing our minds over how best to care for creation, creation continues to care for US!
Over the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, my family and I took every opportunity to get outside and breathe deep in the cool, winter air. We took a birdwatching hike on Portland’s Powell Butte, enjoying the flight of raptors as they soared through the wide-open skies. Next, we snowshoed through the glorious falling snowflakes of Mt. Hood’s cedar and douglas fir forest. Finally, we participated in a “Day of Service” activity, building trails in a local park.
During all of that time, guess how many minutes I spent worrying about the state of the world? Exactly none. You see, while I was enjoying the great out-of-doors, all I could think about was how lucky I was to belong to this beautiful home God has created for us and I could not help but notice how perfectly each part of creation is meant to work together in harmony.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Matthew 6:26
Birdwatching is a hobby that requires patience and acute awareness. When birdwatching, you really can’t do much other than stalk stealthily across the landscape, not talking, peering hard into trees and hedgerows and praying you see something other than a LBB (little brown bird, species unknown).
Because of the slow, silent nature of the activity, birdwatchers tend to see more of the details of nature than other recreational trail users. Where do the rodents live? Who’s hunting whom? What other plants and animals make up the ecosystem? One thing I noticed on Powell Butte was the beautiful network of living things that make their home on that ancient cinder cone. LBBs were feasting on rose hips, kestrel were feasting on LBBs and red-tailed hawks could snack on the abundance of meadow voles that kept peeping up out of their underground lairs. Not one of them worried where their next meal might come from. Not one of them lived their lives any differently than previous generations of Powell Butte birds might have when this land was a dairy farm. In this reality, I found solace and peace.
“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.” Job 14:7
While snowshoeing through the forests of Mt. Hood, I was reminded that trees not only care for each other by providing shelter and support through their roots and their branches, but they also provide oxygen to our hungry human lungs in a symbiotic relationship designed by a uniquely creative Creator. For this, the trees ask no thanks.
I also noticed how the snow, as it melted, added new life to the many streams and rivulets we crossed. In the quiet stillness brought on by the thickness of the trees and the gently falling snow, I felt deep gratitude for the forest and the respite it brought me from the struggles and worry of my everyday life.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10
Ending the weekend on a trail building crew gave my family the opportunity to give back for all that we had received from nature over the weekend. It also gave us a chance to re-enter the world of humans in a way that allowed us to feel good about our place in it. We mulched native plantings, laid down gravel and dug out countless blackberry corms before their fast-growing vines could overtake the restored places that we volunteers had created. Working side-by-side with others who loved this place and this work gave me renewed hope for humanity.
Creation is a remarkable gift…a gift that, every single day, endeavors to wrap us into its complicated and beautiful web of shared responsibilities and harmonious interactions. Every single day, God’s remarkable creation is quietly taking care of us—providing solace, beauty, hope, the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.
The least we can do is notice. The most we can do is appreciate it.