Meandering Along the River’s Edge

~by Virginia Rhys Anson, OFS

March 30, 2015: Saunters With God in Nature

Time, take a flying leap. When the alarm rudely awakens, the clock is micro seconds away from being tossed out the window. I am not a morning person. The beam of sunlight peaking around the curtain does nothing to jump-start my body. My only desire is to hide under the covers and block out that intrusive ray.

However, being true to my night owl nature in an early bird’s world, I crawl from beneath warm sheets, sit on the edge of the bed, and wait for my feet–nay, my whole body–to decide to move, questioning the sanity of my decision to walk in the early morning. Yes, 7 a.m. is early to a night owl.

Half in a daze, I dress and try to stretch ligaments that have “shrunk” during my night’s repose. Life gradually returns as hamstrings stretch out and ankles limber up. I am now ready to tackle my walk–sorta.

Autumn’s fragrance greets my steps into the brisk outdoors. The incense of a fireplace awakens memories of the cozy campfires of my youth. Pines’ aroma tingles my nostrils. An approaching rain’s sweet essence mingles with the tempting scent of frying bacon. Stomach now decides to awaken. Good timing!

There’s a magic to the morning that night owls all too often miss. Tis a time of beginnings, a time to plan the day, a time to make resolutions that need only be kept for twenty-four hours. Mind refreshes and opens to new possibilities—now that it has finally resurrected from its slumber. The day’s adventures imagined with an idealist’s utopian slant–work will go smoothly, the children won’t fight, and everyone will think I’m a genius. Ah, the world of fantasy!

Gliding along ashen walks, some cracked and weathered with age, the senses osmose nature’s majesty. Though rows of houses line my path, nature thrives in trees and grass and bushes. Her trees lay their collage of golds and browns and reds, which crunch underfoot. Squirrels, hurrying to beat winter’s white chill, twitch and bound toward acorns that fill arboreal pantries. The songs of robin and lark and chickadee have been replaced by the honk of Canada geese heralding their descent on their wintertide home. The grass, now a dying shade of brown, prepares for its long hibernation. The gentle nip of this fall morn gives a foreboding of the winter that is close on autumn’s heels. All of nature is slowing for its much awaited rest.

Crisp morn walks enhance a love for nature that runs to my soul, a love credited to my parents and our yearly camping trips. A flashback to a canvas tent cradled among the Sandia Mountain pines of New Mexico distracts. A chilling stream gurgles its way over stones smoothed by years within their aquatic home. A rainbow trout, aptly named, peeks from beneath a muddied bank trying not to meet the same fate as its comrade, now sizzling over campfire’s flames. Bear tracks wind their way around our tent and disappear in the crystalline stream. A lone, cottony cloud floats across an azure sky.

A squirrel, scampering up a nearby tree, interrupts my sweet reminiscence. It fascinates me that animals take everything in stride, while we humans fret about winter’s cold, spring’s rains, and summer’s heat. Birds amaze. They remain in this chilled fall setting, with its temperature barely breaking 40, and merely flit from here to there,–no sign of shivering wings–while I wish I had worn my parka.

Humanity fights nature, while her creatures flow with her many moods. If the upcoming winter promises to be harsh, her rabbits simply don thicker coats of fur. Her squirrels collect more nuts and seeds. Her birds grow more feathers, and her bears sleep til spring. What a life! Humans tend to handle the rough waters by paddling upstream. No so, animals.

Animals don’t brood or ponder the ills that may be dealt to them. They see the danger, analyze the situation, deal with it, and then forget it, continuing life’s journey. It is enlightening to study animals, the way they prepare for life, the way they deal with adversity, the way they live their lives ever so simply.

Walks with nature frequently migrate my musing from intrigue to wonderment at the immense Being Who created nature with all her synchronous rules. Morningtide, before the hurry of the day’s schedule, is also a time spent with my loving God pondering His mysteries.

I am awe-struck at the immensity of His universe, which seemingly has no beginning and no end. It is astounding that the billions of suns and planets in the galaxies can co-exist without colliding into a colossal fireball. How intricately syncopated are the laws that govern each heavenly body, each solar system, each galaxy. The universe renews my belief in a Supreme Being. For a creation this magnificent and this intricate could not be haphazard. Only a deeply loving God could have created such a spectacle for humanity’s exploration and enjoyment. How good God is to a creature who seldom appreciates Him and oft times forgets Him. To coin a phrase, the universe is mind-boggling, but infinitely intriguing.

Perhaps the most precious facet of these walks is my intimate conversations with my ever attentive, ever fatherly Creator. I’ve heard it said that some people tend to view God as they see their earthly fathers. My dad was a kindly, kid-at-heart man, not prone to judging others. Maybe that is why I find it so easy to talk to, laugh with, and, yes, even yell at my heavenly Dad.

The sun escapes the grasp of a cloud, and I thank God for the brief moment of warmth. A rabbit hopping for the cover of a nearby bush coaxes a smile.

Walks, at times, become pleas for loved ones and emotions over trials lived. When my son had difficulty adjusting to college, I begged God to watch over him and guide him. When we faced a move during our daughter’s sophomore year of high school, I asked God to choose the right school for her. When I lost my seven-month pre-born son and when my brother, Pat, died as a young man in his late twenties leaving two sons, God incurred my fury. When my husband lost his job, I asked God to lead us to the right job for him; and I thanked Him after that job came along.

I need not put on airs with my God. After all, He created me and knows my innermost thoughts and feelings. He knows me better than I know myself. He created me as an emotional, and at times, irrational being. He is, therefore, stuck with being the target of my many moods. Occasionally, though, I do fear that I am my Father’s spoiled child, bothering him with my litany of wants—and expecting to get every single one. But I know, too, that since I have walked with Him this brisk, fall morn, He will walk with me throughout the day.

Bits of digression add essence to the flavor that becomes my walks. Though their main purpose is aerobic conditioning, these walks also enhance my ever-growing love and appreciation for God and His nature. They renew my commitment to work for the healing of our earth.

As I approach the end of my trek, the majestic view of the Catskill Mountains, framed in the foreground by oaks and maples in full fall-tinted plumage, greets me. How great is our Creator to provide us with such delightful entertainment that excites the senses. How loving is our God to give us so much and wait so patiently for us to remember Him. And how ungracious it would be if we should throw this gift of nature back at God by destroying His earth.

Yes, it would be easy to tell time to bug-off, to take that extra half-hour to rest in a comfortable bed. And no, work probably won’t go smoothly, no one will think I’m a genius, and the children probably won’t be angels. I’d be worried if they were. But I couldn’t miss my walks with God and His creation. This time may be the only “me” time that I get all day. I relish the secrets that nature whispers. I relish the tender love and awesome power that my Creator reveals. How magnanimously caring is my Father, my Abba.

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Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

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