Creation's color pallet in its full glory

July 17, 2017
By Jane Bishop Halteman

Don shared during Sunday’s formation hour about nature’s impact on his growing up years, most of which were spent on a farm.  At three, he began hanging his tiny glasses on nearby spyrea bushes and once pulled out the family radishes, thinking he was eradicating weeds! 

As a career landscape architect, he said he experienced client delight on spending time in refurbished outdoor living areas and coming to appreciate new plantings. Even today Don and Marceil (and family and friends with whom they share the space generously) enjoy their cabin at Grandpa’s Woods where they spend time close to nature surrounded by birds, flowers, and their garden.

His involvement in creating Mishawaka’s 1.3-acre Japanese strolling garden, Shiojiri Niwa, (see parks district brochure here…be sure to scroll down to second page) also has given him an appreciation for how other cultures represent nature. “The Japanese have taken their love of growing things and their realization of humanity’s union with nature and refined them in the beauty of their gardens. The purpose of a Japanese garden is to present natural forms and to create a tranquil beauty that leads the visitor from everyday life to a calm, serene, reflective communion with nature,” according to the City of Mishawaka’s website.

Don invited class participants to share how they have experienced the Divine in nature, eliciting stories from Mark about hand-sewing wild flower seed on his property, from another Don who watches the seasons unfold on regular walks in a nearby woods, from Elaine whose backyard patio inspires with a rotation of beautiful blooming flowers, from Lane about lessons learned from nature upon extracting weeds and unwanted mulberry trees.

Nature’s extravagant beauty proclaims itself not only in our gardens, but also in our kitchens and ultimately on our tables.  Particularly at this time of year, we are wowed again and again at our South Bend Farmers’ Market, by our local Community Supported Agriculture groups, and by our own gardens. If you do a Google search, you will find many sources that promise plants in the workplace and the home promote good cheer and raise spirits.  This article from the Florist Chronicles suggests that cut flowers banish a bad mood, feed compassion, chase anxiety, boost energy. 

We can immerse ourselves in lavish natural beauty portrayed by artists like Vincent Van Gogh in museums and books. Walking mazes and labyrinths, like the one at Saint Mary’s College, provides a brush with the beauty of nature, as does visiting area gardens like Wellfield Botanic Garden in Elkhart or Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles, MI.

My own colorful journey with nature has led to videos like this one about the St. Joe River and this one on meditating with the seasons. Taking photos featuring the beauty of creation has become a nearly daily spiritual discipline for me; I learn more about the Creator as I immerse myself in the Divine’s creation. 

The photo collage above highlights zucchini and green tomatoes still in the garden and dishes made with garden vegetables; sweet peas, dahlias, tulips, and lilac from home gardens; the spectacular bridges at Shiojiri Niwa; a friend's sprouting green onions used as a centerpiece; Douglas, MI, and Mackinac Island waterfronts, and at the center, anchoring the photo, another friend's beautiful porch sanctuary surrounded by gorgeous summer foliage and flowers. 

Henry David Thoreau reportedly once said, “My profession is always to be alert, to find God in nature, to know God’s lurking places, to attend to all the oratorios and the operas in nature,” according to the Spirituality & Practice website which offers a Practicing Spirituality in Nature on-line retreat here.

Cathy Cummings Chisholm wrote this prayer for inclusion in her book Landscapes of the Heart:

Thank you for pauses placed unexpectedly in my path,

            for moments of rest

            for times of stillness

            for plots of growth

            for ever-welcoming arms and

            the companionship of silence.

You set before me an empty chair of respite.

You invite me to your garden.

Help me to accept the invitation to be at peace.

Teach me that I need not wait so long or resist so stiffly

            the yearning to sit and rest

            in a chair under a tree by a garden.

In what ways have you experienced nature’s ability to companion, comfort, de-stress, encourage, motivate, refresh, renew? If nature has awed you, delighted you, inspired you, reinvigorated you, you have seen the Divine!