Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Reading the World

By Mikaila Gawryn
Outreach Associate

How do you sound out the wildflowers? This question has come to my mind a number of times over the last few years. In other postings I have mentioned my interest in environmental literacy, the ability to read one's environment as one reads a book. Part of my Lenten practice has been a daily body prayer, where I face each of the four cardinal directions and ask for wisdom from heaven and earth. It struck me this morning, as I turned to face east, that I could actually take some time to familiarize myself with the earth and ecosystems that lie east of my home. Therefore, after asking for wisdom in the morning I might actually seek it in the rest of my day. It's funny how long it can take to put two and two together.

One of my favorite classes in college was Taxonomy of Flowering plants, partially because I had the opportunity to compile my own photographic plant collection from local ecosystems. I decided to review some of my notes and share the photos with you. Here are a few of the specimens I collected on the eastern side of Washington state.

The first, Pediocactus simpsonii, is found in arid steppe ecosystems. We had the opportunity to visit the cacti in this region just as they were blooming; a beautiful, once a year occurrence. What is most striking about these flowers is their shocking pink color in the middle of gray-brown-green plains covered in low shrubs.

Second is the Camassia quamash. This delicate flower can be a sweet surprise or a treacherous find. It's sibling is nicknamed Death Camas for the deadly poison in its flowers, but this specimen is quiet edible.

Finally we have Populus tremuloides, known by many as the Quaking Aspen. Not having heard this name before I was unsure as to its meaning. Then I felt the wind behind me and watched the whole grove shiver.

So what do these parts of God's world say to me? If I were to see them as letters in the book of creation I could learn new things about our Creator and the life that we have been given as a gift. A few thoughts come to my mind. Pediocactus reminds me that beauty and gifts can appear even in tough places. Camassia reminds me to be humble. That we can learn to partner with creation for sustenance but we must remember that we are not the ultimate power in the universe. Seeing the Quaking Aspen reminded me of how closely connected we really are to all aspects of creation. To see in a tree a metaphor for fear, or the sensation of a shiver, is almost like seeing ourselves in the world. These are just a few of the thoughts that come to my mind and I encourage you to explore outside your house or workplace to see what comes to you. Enjoy!


Jessica said...

i just love this :) the pictures are beautiful and your words are always so thoughtful and honest. good work

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how you connect with the creation that surrounds you through God. Thank you for this inspirational post.

Francyl said...

I felt as though I was taking a walk, and listening to the earth around me. Thank you for that!

Mary Blessing said...

This is excellent, encouraging a mind-spirit opening to God the Creator living through the Holy Spirit....intelligent "wonder"! Thank you for sharing it. Mary Blessing

Anonymous said...

Mikaila, John just showed me your blog. It's beautiful. You must get your wisdom from your Mom. When I first moved here, I hated it. I felt like I went from paradise to ugliness. I'll never forget what your Mom told me. She said that I must find little pockets of heaven in this place. I did and now I see her daughter is teaching me as well. It's very inspiring and thank you. It couldn't have come on a more awful day. Love, Chris