It was the day after Hurricane Irma trekked through southeast Georgia, leaving in her wake pine, oak, and pecan trees uprooted and broken. Some trees broke power lines while others got entangled and left residents without electricity for minutes, hours, and days.
We were well into day two of our outage as I contemplated which book to read next. Thanks to a well-charged tablet and a power bank, Irma had afforded me the opportunity to start and finish Adultery, Paulo Coelho’s book that “explores the question of what it means to live life fully and happily, finding the balance between life’s routine and the desire for something new.” But I digress.
As I sat there scrolling through my reader for what to read next, I felt inspired to grab my camera, put on my sneakers, and meet nature outdoors. A few minutes later, I was headed north on our dirt road to see what Irma had left us.
The first thing that caught my attention was the black snake crawling into the ditch on my right. It appeared to be crossing the road but upon seeing me, paused. When I chose staring instead of moving on, it curled its way back up the embankment into the woods. Naturally I made a shot, but the heavy undergrowth made a clear view nearly impossible.
As I rounded the curve, I heard the gurgling water of the creek ahead. My siblings and I played in that creek almost every day during summers when we were kids, and that was almost fifty over forty years ago.
The next thing I noticed was that I was suddenly in a nuisance-free zone, i.e., no gnats and none of the annoying love bugs I’d left at the house! The love bugs had been replaced by butterflies, and they were showcasing their multi-colored hues everywhere. I managed to make a few pictures, but most were more interested in flitting from plant to plant than in posing for photographs.
Continuing my walk, I noticed the tree debris that littered the road, mostly pine branches and needles but no downed trees or power lines.
I ended my walk there and headed south, toward the house. Thankfully, we sustained minimal structural damage but pine, magnolia, and oak tree debris covered the yard.
I walked pass the house where I grew up and continued in the direction of what used to be the hog pen. The road was muddy beyond the hog pen so instead of continuing to the creek bridge, I made a left turn and entered the hog pen.
I noticed first the solitary grain bin, lonesome in its vigil over a pen that used to be active with beau hogs, sows, and pigs. Daddy stored corn in both bins, ground it to feed his hogs, then filled the metal feeders. Those metal feeders have been silent since the mid 70s when Daddy made his transition, but the memory of those hogs crowding the feeders, squealing and jockeying for position, lingers.
What I noticed next—and quite to my surprise—was that I had better cell reception at the hog pen than at the house. I had to tell someone and knowing my sisters would totally get it, I texted them. I meandered around the hog pen a while longer, reminiscing and photographing the scenery before heading home.
When I left the house earlier, my brother George (aka GB) was preparing to make dinner on the gas grill burner. But before going in to see what he’d prepared, I got barefooted and walked in the grass. What a sensation that was; I could literally feel the earth’s energy coursing through my body.
It was hard to give up my commune with nature, but I was a bit hungry and curious to see what GB had put together: some crispy fried chicken and a delicious pot of fresh field peas with a perfect seasoning of cayenne.
I ate a bite then headed back outside to sit on the back porch and read. What happened next can only be described as miraculous. Despite—and perhaps because of—what I’ve been working through while down here on the farm, nature conspired that day to show me just how much I really am loved.
I began appreciating time spent in nature over ten years ago after spotting an interstate exit to Indian Springs State Park as I traveled home from Savannah one Sunday afternoon. I followed the signs to what eventually became my favorite hangout and where I spent almost every Sunday for the next few years. Others would be making their way to a brick and mortar sanctuary while I made my way to the park to commune with God in nature. Her presence there was palpable, and I experienced His healing power while walking barefooted and touching the trees, especially the pines. Yes, it was better than church for me, and I always left feeling better than when I arrived.
Not to discount the benefit therapy had been for me, mind you, but my weekly time in the park was better than therapy. Or perhaps complemented it. Having filled those voids left by the release of grief and repressed emotions, Spirit had made me somewhat more whole.
But back to what happened after my walk and brother’s delicious cooked-on-the-gas-grill-burner dinner.
I went out back to sit on the steps and read. As I sat there, a beautiful black and blue butterfly alit on my upper right arm and lingered long enough for me to snap a couple of pictures. It flew away but came right back to sit on my left knee. Again, it lingered and gradually worked its way down my leg to my foot. I’m photographing the whole time, and it’s fluttering its wings as it gradually moves to a spot almost under my foot.
I reach down at that point and rested my fingers on my flip-flop next to it. It climbed on my hand and stayed there until I rested my hand on my knee. The butterfly disembarked, lingered a while longer, and again climbed onto my hand. Our play continued for over fifty minutes, and I was able to record over twenty minutes of video footage. Miraculous!
It’s said that we are manifestations of God, created in His image, and She, through us, gets to experience the world He created. I’ve come to believe over the years, too, that it’s in and through nature that we get to experience the power, beauty, and healing inherent in God’s creation.
There’s a lot to be said about hugging God’s trees and walking barefoot in Her dirt and grass, but try it for yourself and see what you feel. In the meantime, enjoy some of the photos I made that day.
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