“At least once, stop and sit and let nature find you.” This was the admonition Grant and I received from the volunteer who welcomed us to the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. The garden is a small enclave of green and quiet in the middle of fast, expensive cars, beach goers and, when we were there, a large COVID-19 test site. I confess, when we entered the gates, I was less than impressed. We’d circled the place repeatedly attempting to park only to end up paying what felt like too much in an adjacent deck. It was the last day of our trip and my mind was already back to all things Greensboro: the upcoming sermon, the chaotic state of my house, the flight that might be disrupted due to predicted storms. But here we were, car parked, admission fee paid, nature supposedly looking for us.
We entered the Japanese garden with a gurgling water feature, a small red bridge and, as it turns out, a small black cat with arresting yellow eyes. An eager tourist from Boston informed me there were four feline companions around, all taken care of by volunteers, but left to wander at will. Butterflies, large and small, floated and landed all around us. Nature kept inviting me to pay attention, so I sat down in one of the lounge chairs in an attempt to do so, but I could not keep still for very long.
I only allowed nature to find me fully when we reached the koi pond. I couldn’t resist digging out a quarter and putting it in the gumball turned fish food machine. Brown, smelly pellets in hand, I sat on the bench and scattered them like seed into the water. The koi accepted my offering with abandon. Then I saw a family of turtles sunning themselves on the rock and camouflaged right behind the turtles stood a beautiful bird with dark blue feathers and a long, pointy beak. The bird stood on the edge of the pond, motionless, but so close I thought he might take the plunge. The focus of this creature was intense, unwavering. He crept even closer to the edge and then in a flash his head went in the water and came out with a tiny fish in his mouth. Patience rewarded. Sustenance provided. Nature found. The bird’s focus had captured mine and I squelched the urge to applaud his efforts.
This week we mark Earth Day, a time when we remember that the earth is the Lord’s and everything within it. We remember that God created all that is seen and unseen. We remember that we are to steward this place and space that provides for us in countless ways. We might take some time, at least once this week, to sit and let nature find us. Perhaps we could consider the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, the azaleas and the dogwoods in the yard, their splendor, diversity and beauty.
After I sat and let nature find me, I received a gift that had been offered to me all along, a gift offered to us every day, delight in the glory of God evident in all creatures great and small, each little flower that opens, all made well and worthy of our full attention and gratitude.