To be struck by the magnificence of nature is to be returned again, 

   in all-too-brief moments, to the innocence in which we were born. ¹

Richard Wagamese


When we visited our son and his family in Madison over Easter weekend, they took us to see the country property that they purchased late last fall. They are already working on doing some prairie and oak savanna restoration in areas of the land. As we walked around the diversity of the landscape, we stopped to chat by several large oak trees on the hillside edge of an open area. 

Our grandson, who is almost 6 years old, ran over to a large horizontal limb of a huge oak tree and, with a bit of a boost from his dad, draped himself on his belly over it. He contentedly lay there relaxed, as if he were home, his arms and legs dangling and softly swinging. This little boy is a very active child. To see him so peacefully ensconced on this tree, just enjoying quietly hanging out with it, touched me deeply. It was as if he had found a friendly confidant to be totally as ease with, which was so remarkable to witness.

Richard Wagamese spoke to my heart the very next morning as I read his words in his profoundly beautiful book, Embers. They immediately brought to mind what I witnessed the day before, a small child’s return, through an intimate, magnificent experience with nature, to the quiet peaceful innocence in which he was born.

I then remembered a place near my house as a child that I visited to find solitude and communion with nature. I grew up in an industrial neighborhood in a town of 1600 people. Our home was bordered by the lumber yard along the east side of our property and across the street. Next to the lumber yard was a big manufacturing plant, and the railroad tracks were just beyond both. It was a busy street, trucks and forklifts going all day, and trains coming through at night.

But on Sundays the lumber yard was closed. I discovered a corner on the side-stoop of the lumber yard office building where large oak and maple trees shaded the lawn and the building, and where a bridal wreath hedge closed in to create a cool sanctuary of fragrance and delicate beauty. I would sit there enjoying relative peace and quiet, listening to the birds, watching squirrel acrobatics in the trees and their feisty chases across the sheltered yard. 

It was a heavenly place, a spot where I could get out of the fray of being the eldest in a large family, a place of peace and solitude where I could freely feel and think. Though those times were all-too-brief, I believe they did give me the space to return again, through nature, to the innocence in which I was born. I look back now and feel very blessed to have found such a place as a child! Those brief times wonderfully influenced my life by shaping my sense of place, belonging, and oneness with the magnificence of all of Creation. Now I have many such places, for which I am incredibly grateful!

Reflection: Take a few moments to reflect on your moments of feeling struck by the magnificence of nature as a child. Did you have a special place in nature you went to just sit, look, listen, and dream? Where was that place? Picture it in your mind. Remember all the sensations and feelings you experienced there. What did it mean to you then? How has that place shaped your life and relationship with Creation? What/where is your place like that now? 

– Rita Simon


Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations, Richard Wagamese, 2016