I’ve been meditating on the different landscape images from my morning walk. Sometimes I stand and gaze at the entire landscape of trees tracing the patterns of sunlight that filter down onto the forest floor or that spotlight individual plants. Closing my eyes for a few moments, I try to imprint the scene, its colors, shapes, sounds and fragrances on my memory. Looking deep into the woods, I can see the bright green blur of the forest floor. A myriad of grasses and plants blanket the ground beneath the trees. In early summer, the grasses are two to three feet tall making the tree trunks float on an ocean of green.
Other times, I look across an open meadow, soaking in its colors and shapes, watching the mist catch the early rays of the sun. The meadow flowers are changing now that it’s mid-summer. Some of the later wildflowers that are deep purple and gold are beginning to emerge. I see the soft ovals of grass that have been compressed by the deer sleeping last night.
Often within the wooded landscape, my eye is drawn to a set of smaller elements displayed in an artistic fashion. As a landscape painter, I’ve been trained to analyze shapes and their juxtaposition with other elements within my line of sight. I see plants, flowers, seedpods, and animals forming landscape collages. Sometimes a fanciful group of mushrooms pops up overnight. Or I’ll stop to look at a brightly colored leaf that has departed its lofty home too early or that has been temporarily halted in its downward journey.
When you walk the same path almost every day, you get to see how the landscape unfolds its stories over time. The false sunflower plants that grow along the edge of the woods and fields spend several months growing without a bloom. I habitually pull apart the topmost leaf growth to check for buds. Usually I’m only rewarded with an occasional tree frog. Last week my inspection revealed tight green buds on the top of the five to six-foot stalks. A few days later, the buds reveal tiny yellow petals ready to unfurl. Finally, this past week I was rewarded with full blooms. Unlike the traditional, showy sunflowers, I enjoy the simplicity of this petal design juxtaposed with the intricacy of its central crown. The bees seem to agree.
Often the landscape tells a story. The crystal raindrops sparkling on the plants in the early morning sunlight tell of the storm that passed through the night before. One morning I watched a squirrel perched on a branch attempt to dislodge a seed from a pinecone. Squirrel teeth are very sharp, but it takes quite a lot of effort to get rewarded with just one seed. And yet I know he got his fill as I saw the partial skeleton of the pinecone and fragments that he left behind the following day. How often do you get to watch a squirrel dismantle a pinecone?
One morning a turtle was crossing my path, maybe on the way to the stream to lay her eggs. I’ve never seen a crawdad pop his head out of his winter tunnel, yet I know they’re in the creek because I see the empty mud castles they leave behind when they emerge in the spring. On one of my hikes in the mountains, I saw a woodland snail without its shell taking a nap on a log. It made me wonder what happened to his house. Unbeknownst to us and unobserved, nature stories are being played out all over the forest and fields.
So much of God’s creation goes about its business without our participation. Or even without our noticing. An entire forest or field, thousands of trees, wildflowers, insects, and animals go about their destiny unobserved by humans. That is humbling. I’m so grateful not to be in charge of orchestrating every living thing. Instead we get to enjoy the display of beauty that renews itself every morning. God continues to create every minute of every day, just for His and our pleasure. Such a God we serve.
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
John 1:3 NIV