Soulful Nature

I have started reading Soulful Nature. A spiritual field guide by Brian Draper and Howard Green. Yesterday I began to think that I had chosen the wrong time to start this book as at the end of each chapter are things to do such as visiting a favourite place, which of course we can’t do at the moment. This morning I looked again at the activities page at the end of chapter 1 and realised that even if I can’t physically go to a place I still have memories and imagination.
I have always been a nature lover and so my special places reflect that. Since isolation I’ve been thinking about being still. This morning as I read I came across the line “the stillness between two waves of the sea” and I was transported back to one of my favourite places. For 6 years I was privileged to live near Flamborough Head on the east coast and I walked those cliffs frequently. There was one particular spot, off the beaten track and away from tourist haunts that I found especially peaceful. It was my place to pray, to listen, to read, to reflect and to be still.
As I sat looking out to sea on an old wooden bench the sea pounded the cliffs beneath me, the pebbles rolled across each other with each wave, in and out, and the Gulls circled and cried overhead. To my right part of the cliff had collapsed and I could see the waves being forced through a small gap frothy and bubbling a long way beneath me. In spring and summer insects buzzed around wild flowers. The invigorating smell of the seaweed and of the sea, which I now know is the result of tiny molecules of gas released by bacteria, is all around and I can taste the salt on my tongue. I can see nesting seabirds and the sun glittering on the water out to sea. All my senses are alert and tumbling around in my mind as I sit quietly and still. How can I say this is a place of stillness while all this is going on around me to distract me? The thing was that this place, with all its busyness, was a peaceful place and a place to be still. It spoke to me of God, of a God who is creator, a God who is at work in the world changing things just as the sea was changing the cliff. As I thought about this this morning I was back there, the sea spread out before my eyes and I was reminded of the verse from Genesis “and the spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
Years later I returned to Flamborough Head with Colin. I wanted to show him my special place where I had felt the closeness of God. But it was different. The sea still churned, the gulls still shrieked overhead and the taste of salt was on the breeze; but my special place with its bench had disappeared over the cliff. The coastline was changed. Initially, I was upset that this place wasn’t there anymore but then I thought of new beginnings of new chapters in life; of growth and moving on.
When I left the east coast and moved to Glossop in Derbyshire I found another special place to be still. And here in Liverpool…? I miss the grandeur of the cliffs or the wildness of the moors. That doesn’t mean I can’t see God’s hand here, I can but it’s different. My still place is at home, in my chair or in the garden.
Doing this exercise today made me see that God is in my memories, my imagination and my stillness. I don’t have to physically travel to special places of old. And so today I give thanks for memories, imagination, stillness and the beauty of creation.
Psalm 136 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skilfully. Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters. Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights. His faithful love endures forever. Amen

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