I have recently joined a collective of artists, writers, and practitioners who trust in the therapeutic aspect of nature and creation. Each in our own way, we believe that intentionally spending time with nature creates opportunities for growth, healing, inspiration and restoration. Rebecca Lefebvre has connected us all to create a beautifully engaging magazine, Collective Wisdom. As a Spiritual Director, I write about ways the Creator moves around and within us through various outdoor, gardening, and homesteading experiences. I also incorporate contemplative prayer activities that accompany my article. Today, I’m posting my Jul-August submission. If you’re interested in subscribing for a hard copy or digital version, please click the Collective Wisdom link above and learn more. -cameron
I love hydrangeas. There is something peaceful about the pattern of petals nestled among broad green leaves and their colors softly transforming over time. For the last ten years or so, I’ve been collecting different varieties and strategically placing them around my yard. You see, most hydrangeas typically delight in a delicate balance of sun and shade, and on occasion, I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.
One year, someone gifted me a beautiful blue Nikko that I admired with all my heart. If I could be a color, it would be that shade of blue. After nurturing her closely for most of the summer, I sadly watched her die practically right in front of my eyes. I don’t know what killed her, but there she lingered, brown and shriveled. In an attempt to offer support, I got the shears and pruned her back, I mean way back, then covered her with oak leaves and hoped she would shoot up in the spring.
Well, she didn’t. I waited patiently until mid-June and still nothing.
Finally, I decided to move away all the leaves and just let Nature take her course. And of course, She did.
Not that year, but the next, up came the Nikko. I could not have been more overjoyed. In spite of my best intentions, what she had really needed was time to work through it. She had to find what fed her body and spirit and draw it in.
Sometimes in our lives when we experience sadness, pain, or challenge, we are expected to shed the dead leaves and trim away the hurt because we are supposed to be “ok.” What I’ve learned from that Nikko, however, is that the spirit is created to adapt and flourish, but only if we give it the time it needs to do so. Honoring the pain and working through it is part of the journey. It provides us with the opportunity to be sheltered and protected so we can heal.
When autumn arrived that year, I marveled at my sweet hydrangea. She’d spent a summer growing fresh flowers for the kitchen table and big blooms for dried arrangements. As I tucked her in for her long winter’s nap, I was mindful about how I prepared her for the season ahead. I wanted to leave her with what she needed to be restored and whole again next summer.
Nourish then Flourish: Engaging with Nature to Heal and Thrive
- Take a daily prayer walk – as you walk in a quiet location, spend time in prayer for yourself, others, or the world; you may want to make or use some prayer beads to keep focused or take count of your prayers
- Engage in a forest bath – the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku encourages us to be present and mindful with and in nature, more specifically the woods, both for spiritual and physical healing
- Hug a tree – or an animal or a plant; connect with those living things through sensory experiences that center your soul
- Plant something – there is something inspiring and hopeful about experiencing creation, whether it’s a plant in a window sill or a garden in your yard