Tag Archives: spirituality and nature

Field Notes #6

June 2, 2009. I hiked into Crossfire Canyon via Coyote Way.  The morning had a warmth to it I didn’t feel while I walked topside through currents of wind blustering north out of some rise of weather.  But as I followed the trail down into the canyon the breezes thinned.  Then holes formed in them, holes of heavy warmth and stillness where plants stood as motionless as they appear to in photographs. 

This corner of southeastern Utah hosts above-average vigorous winds, so plants are more often astir than not.  The junipers—Utah and Rocky Mountain—come alive in the breath of this place. On blustery days, a juniper tree dances and sings.  Its singing is a sigh of sliding volume, rising at times to a breathy roar.  As it dances, as much as the top two-thirds of the tree leans and rocks back, how far and how often depending on the size of the tree and the strength and constancy of the wind.  But each branch moves independently, maybe only by a little, from those surrounding it, all together undulant in the waves of wind.  Thus may a juniper approach in its rootedness the suppleness of a belly dancer. Continue reading Field Notes #6

Communion with the small: An essay by Theric Jepson

Theric Jepson is best known in Mormon blogging for his Motley Vision post on Mormon comics. That and his other Motley Vision work are listed at http://www.motleyvision.org/about-theric-jepson/ along with essays and short stories hosted at other sites. He is the editor of that Fob Bible thing that all the cool kids are talking about. His online presence is best summed up by listing thmazing.com, thmazing.blogspot.com and twitter.com/thmazing. His poemMorning Walk, Spring 2009” was published here in March; it and this essay together sum up Theric’s daily natural philosophy: We are part of nature and nature is part of God and both nature and God should be part of our everyday lives. Even living as he does now in California’s East Bay, Theric will pause to watch a squirrel or listen to a bird. He is particularly curious as to why deer are commonly seen three blocks from his house yet never in his neighborhood, and how in the world so many raccoons can fit into a single sewer drain.


Why do we cityfolk so often imagine it necessary to leave the paved world to enjoy the natural world? I can remember one Sunday at Brigham Young University, walking from campus back to my apartment along the south border of a parking lot, just looking at the bushes. Some still had leaves, others were bare. Some had berries. One of the berried demanded my attention: each of this bush’s berries had three leaves growing in to and out of the berry. Perhaps they had once been petals from the flower? I don’t know, but it was new and fascinating and question-generating.

A neighboring bush was already naked of leaves in preparation for the coming winter, but the younger branches were covered in a soft, pleasant fuzz. The closer to the main trunk, the more likely a branch was to be bare, but those further afield had their own fur coats. Was this for winter protection? Was the fuzz there year round? Continue reading Communion with the small: An essay by Theric Jepson

The Island for Poi: a short story by Lora

“The Island for Poi” is a short story written in the “And that’s how the fox got his red coat” tradition, except with a twist: this story is about how the fantastic and mysterious relics found on an island came to be there.  Also, the story is told by a first person narrator who learned the “truth” in parts.  It’s a fun and breezy rite-of-passage tale, as satisfying to read as a berry can be to eat.  Its nature overtones make it a good fit for WIZ.

Lora lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, dog and rat. She is currently reading Atlas Shrugged. Lora gardens, writes, and runs the household. She is also preparing for the next school year when she will have both children enrolled in cyberschool.  


“Poi Maluuma, you get in here!”

Poi was second oldest of us seven boys, and cursed with the curse of secondness, as everyone knew. As he slouched into the shade of the tree where our family spent our days, he dragged his big feet and hung his tousled head. It was much too hot for Momma to sit or cook in the hut until after dark, but that didn’t stop her from growling her command anyway. While Dad went fishing and could be anywhere at sea, everyone knew that home was where the Momma was.

She stared up at him from where she reposed on a mat in the shade of the tree. Momma was not your typical openhearted islander. Other women sometimes asked each other if she had even been born among the Friendly People. She was steely and flinty. I didn’t know these were the words for her until years later when I went away to Chile for school. Eventually it would occur to me that Momma might have been channeling the soul of some mean housewife from Detroit. She was bad for the tourist business. She didn’t care what others thought. She had seven boys and she always declared that she had been stricken enough. Continue reading The Island for Poi: a short story by Lora

Taking what is not offered: Guest post by greenfrog

[Greenfrog, aka Sean, is a piquant concoction of Mormonism, Buddhism, and Lawyerism living in the Denver, Colorado area. He describes himself as an amphibious creature who “breathes Mormon air and swims Buddhist waters, both quite happily.”  I became acquainted with him through his comments on posts at A Motley Vision. Field notes he contributed to some of my posts (see here, and here, scroll down) at Times and Seasons further singled him out to my eye as an engaging writer, able to bring words and place together. “Taking what is not offered” is cross-posted here from his blog, In Limine: On the Threshold, at the Beginning.] 


During a recent meditation retreat, the other participants and I each undertook to live by the five Buddhist training precepts during our time there. One of those precepts is this:

For the purposes of training, I will not take anything that is not offered to me.

This is a common sense rule for those who will live in close proximity to one another – no “borrowing” your roommate’s shampoo, no swiping someone else’s flip flops. It’s a basic principle that is embedded in social systems everywhere – in the yoga tradition as the niyama of asteya – non-stealing. God told Moses a version of the same thing. Continue reading Taking what is not offered: Guest post by greenfrog

The Peach

by P. G. Karamesines

Blake’s angel, for all his winks and nods,
Wouldn’t have it, though it hangs for having:
Drop of down and blush quavering on the rim
Of ripeness, playing at a fall.

Pendant at the tip of a branch astray
From the greater fruited spray
Where sister peaches cluster meekly
Beneath green custom, this one sweet dangle
Trespasses air my side the fence
Where sunlight fires its skin and any breeze
May dance it.

My neighbor who set the tree as start
Is a man of strict authority, armed, invested,
An officer of our active legion laws.
He knows where all the lines are drawn,
Where fences stand, where right leaves wrong,
And keeping his faith good is wise.
Although this juicy prodigal does seem
To trail a gray gulf, he may better know, 
And so the peach appears to plump and glow
With consequence, a nectareous world
Ripening on a branch of orchard heaven
Under scrutiny from many angels’ eyes.

Taking such creature to tongue suggests
That becoming as a god by fell choice:
Will birthing, her first cry, Desire;
Light, on which the eye opens suddenly,
That infant slit of lid permitting
The flash from good and evil springing apart
To change the eye forever; then, vision:
Probability, lively, everywhere at once,
Refiguring the garden, reforming
Every place the eye alights each time;
Gleams of possibility sparking like drops
Of dew, infinite, engorged with sudden sun
As far as the eye dares see—to the stars—
And, clinging to skin, so wet and cool,
Instant thoughts of nakedness
Blush the body and Will seeks clothing,
Her prior choicelessness seeming comfort now,
If unfitting, and inaccessible as the opened womb.

Such first physics infusing All and Now,
Poised to go at breath, I too partake.  So:

Day by day shall the peach hang unmolested.
With its toys of luster it shall bob and sway
Till summer drops its sun, till it is swept
From splendor by timeliness or wind,
Or till he whose lawful peach it is
Decides its fate by his own hand.


Published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Fall 2005): 178.  “The Peach” won Dialogue’s “Best of the Year Award” in poetry for that year.

Guilting the lily

I’ve been thinking about shaming language, rhetoric meant to motivate others to action by attempting to arouse feelings of guilt, unworthiness, or disgrace —how unhealthy it is, not just for people’s psychological well-being but also for the environment.  So I thought I’d run a couple of posts about how using guilt to motivate folks to change their behavior toward the earth and its natural resources might be an environmentally unsound practice. 

“Guilting the lily” appeared originally at Times and Seasons August 30, 2007 .  You might find the discussion that ensued on that post interesting (please overlook the font glitches that appeared in the post and comments when T&S changed its format).

The editors cite in the Preface to New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community an unidentified 1991 report* that places each of the thirty largest Christian denominations in one of five categories based on their environmental stances. The categories were: 1) Programs Underway: denominations engaged actively in national environmental programs; 2) Beginning a Response: denominations beginning to engage in national environmental programs; 3) At the Brink: denominations preparing to take the plunge into action on the national environmental level; 4) No Action: denominations not taking any action as yet; and 5) Policies of Inaction: denominations that, as the editors put it, are “formally committed to inaction.”

Bet you can’t guess where this unidentified report set The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: yep, firmly in the “formally committed to inaction” category. Continue reading Guilting the lily

Earth Day 2009 (Field Notes #4)

Forgive, please, the late, overhasty and not especially informative nature of this post, but I wished to get something up for Earth Day before the opportunity passed.  As usual, consider yourself invited to report on your own Earth Day activities in the comments section.

Here in SE Utah, Earth Day opened gorgeously.  Warm and blue.  To the south, only a few drawn clouds showing, thin as weeds that snow flattened.  Around the Abajos to the north rise those striking cloud formations that always provoke my wonder.  Can’t remember what they’re called, but I think of them as the “jellyfish formations,” because to my eye they resemble man-of-war jellyfish: small, top-heavy clouds trailing long, wispy tentacles of vapor that appear to dangle into lower reaches of the atmosphere.  As I’ve sought to understand those cloud structures, I’ve read what’s actually happening is that the tentacles are water vapor rising out of unstable air, seeking a more settled region of the atmosphere.  Once the vapor finds that more stable region it forms a cumulus cloud, which may in turn provide the seed of a cumulonimbus cloud, a thunderhead. Continue reading Earth Day 2009 (Field Notes #4)

Field Notes #3

April 21, 2009 (pre-Earth Day)

Today, as I head out for the trail into the canyon that will take me past the dead coyote, I decide to call that trail Coyote Trail, or maybe Coyote Way, to remember that coyote mouldering at the trailhead.  As I pass those remains, I try to satisfy my curiosity about the animal’s gender, but the back legs are frozen together in a rigor of modesty.  A cloud of black flies on and around the carcass goes a-buzz at my intrusion into its community feast and fur-lined creche. Continue reading Field Notes #3

What I did and thought, Earth Day 2008

Parts of this entry rise a little above-average personal in nature.  I don’t mean to make this an “alms before men” post.  I want to try to show how easily — for me, anyway — thinking can slide between my experiences with animals and the ones I have with people.   Also, I don’t remember ever having written down the “Hillbilly Dilly” episode noted below, and since the hummingbird called it to mind, after my not thinking about it for many years, I imagined the moment right for the telling.

April 22, 2008

At the cliff this morning, I find a colony of white-throated swifts fully active, hunting the wild blue, tangling into the wind gusts that stream through the canyon’s channel and splash against its rocks.

A vulture passes by, very low, slightly out from the ledge where I sit. 

A swift just cut in quite close, the vrrrrr of its wings as they sliced air sounding like a miniature jet.  A pair of hawks circle high overhead.

Will eagles come?  I barely finish writing the question when I look up to see a golden eagle, juvenile or maybe second year, brown feathers flecked with white.  As I gaze up at the eagle, a black-chinned hummingbird rises like a helicopter into my line of sight, directly between the eagle and me, probably examining the burgundy tones in my shirt, faded overall but most vivid in the cuffs.

Continue reading What I did and thought, Earth Day 2008

Get out there!

I don’t like to tell people what to do.  In fact, except for my kids, who lack imagination where performing necessary tasks is concerned, I’ve come to dislike it extremely.  Well, even then.  But I’ve been thinking lately that Mormons appear to be beeline people, traveling in more or less straight lines between this or that field of responsibility and the home hive.  Work, home, school, home, temple, home, ward house, home, stake house, home, temple, home, Walmart — home, thank goodness!  

Is Mormonism an indoor culture?   

Whether it is or not, Earth Day is coming up April 22, less than one week away.  If at all possible, I hope folks try to get outside, day or night, and have a good look around.  And consider taking the kids.  Even if it’s backyard exploration or a half-hour jaunt to the local park.  Do a little bird-watching — populations are migrating right now, you might see something surprising.  No need to step very far out of your comfort zone, and please, don’t take unnecessary risks.  Keep it simple and close, if that’s your speed.  It’s all call of the wild.

The world’s extraordinary, even when strange, even where it isn’t as beautiful as it used to be, and it stands in needs of us.   Mormons.  Not to save it, but to abide with it, to wind ourselves deeper into its braid.   To change simply by witnessing, to be changed.  It’s the nature of spirituality to rise to the surface at the least opportunity.

So try?  Even for a few minutes.  Stop between buildings.  Wind down the car window.  Think about God’s taffy pull with light, stretching it into being, shuffling land and sea, granting earth permission to sprout grass, sprinkling stars around the sun and moon, invoking the waters to bring forth life, shaping animals upon their bones, and seeing it all as good.

It is good.  Even the seemingly bad reflects glints of good.

Get out and see for yourself.  I’ll be reporting on my Earth Day activities, so if something cool happens to you while you’re out, you’ll be able to post about it in the comments.

Like I said, not to tell people what to do (shudder), but to suggest a possibility.   People can’t have too many possibilities.