On my spiritual journey I have spent much time reflecting on my childhood and how I was raised spiritually. It wasn’t until a recent recollection that made me realize that besides church on Sundays, praying at the dinner table and celebrating Christian holidays, my dad had actually set motion in me the finding of spirituality in nature.
Last week while planting seeds in the garden a strong memory took over me. I was suddenly a little girl again in my back yard with my dad. I had a tin can in my hand and my dad was taking seeds off the dead flowers and putting them in this can. Then we were in the garage tucking them away on a shelf and he was telling me how we can use those seeds to grow the flowers the following year. Right then and there, remembering that little moment, that simple little glimpse to my past, made me realize that my dad loved nature. I always knew he had. I have many memories of him and the outdoors, but for some reason that moment was so clear to me that it was my ah-ha moment of how I came to find my spirituality in the nature around me.
I’m not sure if he meant to or not, but because of my dad, I seek comfort and get my sense of peace in nature. I didn’t realize then what I have recently become aware of, but he instilled in me the true beauty and appreciation of the outside world.
While growing up he would take us on Sunday drives along the river. If it was winter he would point out the ice and snow on the trees and how the sun sparkled on the snow in the fields. If it was spring he would pull the car over to take our picture in a patch of tulips growing alongside the road. In the summer he would take us at dusk (after stopping for ice cream of course) so we could watch for deer. And if it was fall he would point out the beautiful colors of the trees.
All year round we would feed the birds on our back deck and watch for them to arrive. My dad would take photos of these birds while I was desperately trying to get away so I can go play. Now days I am the one always watching for the birds to come eat the food that we have set out for them on our back deck and find myself pointing out to my daughter when they do arrive so she can see and appreciate them.
There was an area of woods by my house that he would take me hiking in. He was always hoping to spot some deer or other forms of wildlife that he could point out to me. We were lucky to see a beaver once.
When a rain storm was coming he would take me on the roof of the house to watch the clouds roll in over the cornfields. It wasn’t until my mom would come out back to yell for him to get me down because it had started lightning. Then we would just move to the front porch swing until the first rain fell so we can smell it on the hot cement. To this day I love that smell and it always takes me back to those moments.
Every Saturday while my mom was working my dad and I would go out to our family cabin and “work”. I didn’t appreciate it then, but the “work” we did out at the cabin are the little things I enjoy doing around my house and yard today. We would rake and burn leaves, clean up the river bank, mow the lawn, plant fruit trees and flowers, build a deck, swing on the tree swing and fill the bird feeders. Pretty much any little piddly thing my dad could do outside he would do and get me to help. We would stop to have peanut butter crackers and chicken noodle soup for lunch. I remember we would sit outside or on the porch and he would say “shhh, listen.” Typically this would be his way to tell me to stop talking, but because I was already quiet I realized he wanted me to stop and listen to the sound of the wind in the trees, the water flowing down the river, or the birds singing. The nights we would sleep at the cabin he would make sure we took a walk down the lane so we could see all the stars in the pitch black night. We would lay in the middle of the road and look up at the sky. Again, I didn’t appreciate these moments at that time, but I do now.
Even most of our vacations was set around nature. We would go on an annual camping trip so we could hike on sand dunes, swim in a lake and visit the local farmers markets to get our vegetables to cook and fruits to snack on. When we went to Europe for 2 weeks he made sure we drove through 5 different countries so we could see the countryside and stop at our own leisure. These stops would include watching cows and goats on a pasture in Germany, drinking fresh water from a mountain stream in Switzerland, admiring the bridges connecting mountains in France, and stopping on a mountainside to look down in the valley at the little town or lake below. And when we would go to the ocean no matter what the temperature was we were to put our feet in the water and watch the waves.
Last week while planting those seeds in my garden and the memory of my dad and I gathering seeds from my childhood garden completed the circle for me on why I find my peace and my spirit in my connection with the earth. All along my dad was planting those seeds in me and I am just now realizing it. Thank you dad.