Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Shimmering Forest at Carantouan

The Susquehanna River in Athens, PA is a connection to distant places. Beginning in New York, this lively watercourse carries suspendable matter southwards through Pennsylvania and then through Maryland, ending up in the Chesapeake Bay. That being said, this morning I spent less time thinking about this distant connection and more time getting to know what's right here. Erin and I moved into the town of Athens on Thursday of last week and have been enjoying the network of forested trails that border the Susquehanna River that are called the Carantouan Greenway.

At 6am the sun shone brightly. It seems that on every clear and sunny day that is warmer than the night that preceded it, an amazing display of dancing light can be witnessed from the riverbank. As fog rises, morning sunlight refracts off the surface of the flowing waters and dances on the underside of the leaves of majestic silver maples with masts high overhead! The whole place becomes aglow and shimmering! What great joy to be in the middle of it all! This dance of light on the west bank of the Susquehanna is a spectacle worth rolling out of bed for at the crack of dawn. But that's not all! As light dances, vireos, redstarts, and wrens fill the riparian forest with a symphony of birdsong!

So many wild neighbors. Such diverse community. Ever flowing. Ever changing. With all of this new and vibrant life abounding, while I sit along the bank of the Susquehanna, in my heart I'm hearing the words that are attributed to God who is the Source of Divine Creativity speaking through the prophet Isaiah; "I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Can't you see it?" (Isaiah 43:19)

God seems always to be doing something new. Here the layers of the forest speak to this truth. At about knee-height are plants such as poison ivy, jewelweed (which has the fortunate ability to counteract the rash-inducing oils of poison ivy), and sensitive fern as well as plants like the green dragon of yesterday's blog post. At shoulder-height are various shrubs, then at about twenty feet or so are small trees, and finally towering high overhead are the huge masts of water-loving deciduous trees like the silver maples, some of whose trunks must be about 10 feet around! Beneath it all are last year's leaves that cover the forest floor; layer upon layer upon layer.

God is doing something new in every season. In the forest, last year's leaves must released to make room for new growth. It's not just the trees either; the exoskeleton of a stonefly clings to a blade of grass here at the water's edge. That which has been released becomes the fertilizer for the something new that is emerging.  Nowhere have I seen this truth expressed more profoundly than in the forest.

The forest is a good teacher. Release the former things, welcome the life that is newly emerging with every next season. This sacred activity of release has been a prominent theme of my move from Wellsboro to Athens. Releasing the stuff that Erin and I had acquired which we had not used at all during the past five years felt liberating. Releasing those I've grown to know and love into the care of another pastor is hard. But it is good. Release is a life-giving act; because again, that which is released becomes the fertilizer for the something new that is emerging.

God is always doing something new.

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