I was struck with envy on Thanksgiving Day, on this day when family, food, blessings, and laughter were supposed to be overflowing and when gratitude should have been flowing from my lips. Instead I was feeling sorry for myself. We were home—just the three of us—when we should have been at the relaxed Andersen gathering in South Dakota or at the exuberant Brake family get-together in Kansas City. I wanted to be with all my kids; I’m not sure that longing will ever go away. For they are the ones who give me joy, who I love to love, who I find to be the most beautiful and courageous of all creations. We had no Thanksgiving turkey in the house, as our last-day decision not to travel west left us with a nearly empty refrigerator. And then, a reckoning: a walk with Chris and our Tamba dog. Nature to the rescue once again. The snow was beautiful, the air fresh and good to breathe, and there was a shift inside me. Aaron, with his kind and humorous spirit, went with me to the little grocery store down the hill where we bought a few things to make our Thanksgiving meal—simple and spare compared to most, but gratifying nonetheless. We listened to Christmas music, and I reverently rolled out a crust for a pecan pie. I talked to the girls, to my Mom and sister, missing them all with a heart that aches and rejoices at the same time. I was thankful to be with Chris and Aaron in our warm home with Nature all around us.
Prayer for Nature
by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918)
O God, we thank you for this universe, our home; and for its vastness and richness, the exuberance of life which fills it and of which we are part. We praise you for the vault of heaven and for the winds, pregnant with blessings, for the clouds which navigate and for the constellations, there so high. We praise you for the oceans and for the fresh streams, for the endless mountains, the trees, the grass under our feet. We praise you for our senses, to be able to see the moving splendour, to hear the songs of lovers, to smell the beautiful fragrance of the spring flowers.
Give us, we pray you, a heart that is open to all this joy and all this beauty, and free our souls of the blindness that comes from preoccupation with the things of life, and of the shadows of passions, to the point that we no longer see nor hear, not even when the bush at the roadside is afire with the glory of God. Give us a broader sense of communion with all living things, our sisters, to whom you gave this world as a home along with us.
We remember with shame that in the past we took advantage of our greater power and used it with unlimited cruelty, so much so that the voice of the earth, which should have arisen to you as a song was turned into a moan of suffering.
May we learn that living things do not live just for us, that they live for themselves and for you, and that they love the sweetness of life as much as we do, and serve you, in their place, better than we do in ours. When our end arrives and we can no longer make use of this world, and when we have to give way to others, may we leave nothing destroyed by our ambition or deformed by our ignorance, but may we pass along our common heritage more beautiful and more sweet, without having removed from it any of its fertility and joy, and so may our bodies return in peace to the womb of the great mother who nourished us and our spirits enjoy perfect life in you.
I’m so thankful for Nature. On this Thanksgiving weekend, it is fitting to pray for the Earth we call home, the Earth that provides the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil and sun to grow our food. If God were to listen to the ‘voice of the earth’ now, one hundred years after this prayer was written, I wonder if the Creator would hear a song or a moan of suffering. As in the rest of life, it would probably be a combination of the two. I know the song is sweet and uplifting in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but imagine the suffering song in the long-parched drought areas of the West. Theologian Rauschenbusch also asks God to ‘free our souls of blindness that comes from preoccupation with the things of life, and of the shadows of passion.’ Are we blinded by consumerism at this time of year? What does the darkness of our passions—greed, envy, fear, egotism, and bigotry—do to our souls and to the earth? Gratitude begins with the intimate experiences of our senses—thank you for this beautiful snow, thank you for the heart-warming smell and taste of fresh-baked goodies, thank you for the sound of laughter, thank you for the warm touch of hand on hand. With gratitude, our hearts open to joy, beauty, love, kindness, and courage, and we become the winds of goodness, pregnant with blessings.