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Nature’s Beauty – A Reflection

July 16, 2021
This tree is on the site of the Cherokee Nation’s Capitol at New Echota in Georgia
We spent time with this Red-winged Blackbird on the site of Andersonville Prison

The last two outings that we have taken have been sort of a history trail. The history of these two places is dark and very sad. The tree stands on land where the Cherokee people once lived. From this place and others like it, an entire nation was removed from the land and forced to walk from Georgia to Oklahoma in what is called “The Trail of Tears.” The stories of brutality, naked greed on the part of white people along with the state & national governments are hard to read and listen to. But we must hear their stories and honor them.

The Red-winged Blackbird was in a tree close to a spring that had providentially arose following a storm and lightning strike on August 14th, 1864 at Andersonville. This gave some fresh water to the POW’s living inside of the prison stockade. One would need to read the stories and the history of this place in order to understand the horrific conditions that the Union prisoners endured. If you were only to look at the site as it is today, you would see a green and lush meadow with a meandering creek cutting through it. You wouldn’t see in your mind’s eye the overcrowded and muddy ground where the POW’s lived and died.

What struck me about both places was the fact that sites of great darkness slowly transformed into beautiful settings. That healing took many years to take hold and the work of healing is still far from over as our nation continues to grapple with the ugly and brutal parts of our history that many wish to gloss over or ignore. This type of healing must continue as we move forward in life’s journey.

Today has been a day of reflection for me. A guided meditation that we listened to this morning helped remind us of nature’s beauty and the holy encounters we have had in nature. Even with the beauty though, we were given the opportunity to acknowledge the pain that either the land felt or that we had experienced.

In his journal entry from December 2nd, 1948, Thomas Merton writes about his own reflections in nature. A thousand small high clouds went flying majestically like ice-floes, all golden and crimson and saffron, with clean blue and aquamarine behind them, and shades of orange and red and mauve down by the surface of the land where the hills are just visible in a pearl haze and the ground was steel-white with frost—every blade of grass as stiff as wire. (Entering the Silence, p. 248) This is such a vivid word-picture that Merton painted. Yet he also painted vividly horrifying pictures as he confronted the horrors of war and the nuclear arms race.

I need to remember each time that we go out for a hike or walk the stories we see in front of us and the beautiful pictures we paint with our cameras are only part of the story. We need to simply be present in the midst of creation with open hearts, minds, and spirits. Perhaps then, we will experience something bigger than us as the land speaks to us.

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