It relates to the thinking I did on Bardsey Island and my experience of how the natural world has a mysterious capacity, somehow, to absorb our pain and longings and bring solace. I wrote a post about it here. I wasn’t able to explain in any way though why that should be.
I’m currently reading Ian Adams’ new book, Running Over Rocks: Spiritual practices to transform tough times, taking some time each morning to read and reflect on one of the short chapters (it’s always nice when a magazine’s book review request results in me reading a book I would have wanted to have read anyway!).
This particular morning I read something that made me think further. Let me quote it in full:
‘For Jesus a life of joy emerges from an experience of loving and being loved. ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you: abide in my love’ (John 15:9). And this experience of love is not dependent on the love of another single human being (although that can be a beautiful way in which this love is mediated). The love that the teacher is referring to is the love that permeates all that exists (and the love within, and the love from, and love towards it): the good earth, the benevolent cosmos, and the community of God who is love. Joy emerges from our experience of loving and being loved’.
There were two things in this that made me think.
Firstly, the idea that the experience of loving and being loved brings us joy. If there is one thing we know about experiencing love it is that it makes us happy. Our whole perspective on life changes and we see it through lovers’ eyes!
Secondly, is the idea that the community of God is love. It has long been held within Christian theology that God created the universe out of love: not because there was a deficit or need within the Trinity, but as an expression of the movement of love between the persons of the Trinity: ‘creation… flows from the free love of God, from the inherent richness and many-sidedness of his being’.
Rublev’s famous fifteenth century ‘icon of the Trinity’ draws us in and invites us to come, sit and participate in the movement of love that we see portrayed there – to take our place at Love’s table (if I can move from art to poetry). We may not always be aware of it, but I believe that is something of what we experience when we allow ourselves the time to connect with the natural world.
Put these two ideas together and I wonder, does time spent in the natural world bring solace because, in doing so, we touch something of the love of the Trinity and the joy that comes from that washes over our grief, like the waves of the sea washes over the shore? The pain, like the shore, isn’t gone but, for a time at least, it is submerged.