When I go hiking, it is generally in the Appalachians. I grew up in those mountains and still live near the foothills and gorges. They are ancient, around 240 million years old according to some geologists. Then there are the Rockies, much higher and much younger by comparison, at “only” around 100 million years, give or take. The very age of both mountain ranges inspires awe; their beauty is unspeakable.
But the psalmist says they (and all of nature) actually do “speak.”
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. [from Psalm 100]
It’s a favorite psalm, enjoyed by many this time of year in the U.S. because we like to quote “Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday.
I always find interesting, though, the biblical calls for the whole earth, not just people, to make a joyful noise. Elsewhere in the scriptures the rocks, rivers and mountains cry out in praise.
Really? Do they?
As someone who spends as much time as I can out of doors, I have to admit that I rarely think of nature verbalizing. But on reflection, it’s a perfect metaphor.
Mountains jutting out of the Colorado plains speak of their rough origins, long before humans ever saw them. Ocean waves sing of the millions of yet-undiscovered secrets far below the surface. Giant redwoods and nearby seedlings articulate both the resilience and fleeting nature of all life. Cultivated fields, lying fallow for winter, hint of the renewal of the earth through its cycles of activity and rest. Creeks gradually smoothing rocks as they tumble over them remind us that the world is constantly changing.
Does nature speak? Definitely.
In ways that we cannot, it points us to ancient truths and rhythms, to the eternal word spoken when the universe was formed, to the simultaneously fragile and durable essence of the cosmos.
As you give thanks this week, and find yourself at a loss for words, just look out the window and let the universe do the talking.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2011