Recently my husband and I had the privilege of visiting Yellowstone National Park. The majestic sights stirred my heart and soul. The sounds of the steaming geysers and fountains, burbling hot mud pots, singing birds, rushing streams, and whispering leaves replaced the constant noise we accept as normal. The usually ubiquitous earpieces were rare on the landscape. Conditions were fertile for quiet conversations and deep thoughts.
Let me share with you two separate things I was thinking about in the Park and upon my return. The first is the act of listening and the second is the magnificence of trees.
I have come to believe that deep listening is at the core of all personal growth. When we get quiet and truly listen with an open heart to God, to nature, to other people, to ourselves, and to our bodies, we will grow more holy, healthy, and happy. Being in Yellowstone or any place outside in nature facilitates this sometimes challenging process. Here are a few wise quotations about listening.
God speaks to us every day, only we don't know how to listen. Mohatma Ghandi
The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second is listening. Hebrew sage Solomon ibn Gabirol
Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind's hearing to your ear's natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.
Pete Senge, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.
Trees have always amazed me. They are so beautiful with their almost infinite variety of shapes, sizes, and leaves. They can stand high in the sky without falling down. Their roots travel deep or wide. The willows wave, the aspens tremble, and the evergreens stretch to the clouds. We tend to overlook the many roles trees play in the balance of nature and the production of oxygen via photosynthesis. I think we all have been awed by trees at some time in our lives. My musing about trees was particularly poignant because we learned of the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord while we were in the Park and also learned that the many dead pines we saw had been killed by an overgrowth of pine beetles caused by the warming temperatures seen in the Park and globally. I offer you these words of famous poets who best speak for trees.
God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying "Ah!"
The groves were God's first temples.
William Cullen Bryant, A Forest Hymn
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
of moral, evil and of God,
than all the ages can.
William Wordsworth, The Tables Turned
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Joyce Kilmer, Trees
Slowly reread the quotes and poems listed above. You may feel prayers well up from your mind and heart as you do this.
Find a way to spend time in nature. Determine a specific time and place, whether it be walking near trees, gardening, hiking, sitting in a park, fishing, or going on picnics. Scientific research demonstrates that being outside in nature is very good for your physical and mental health. Scrutinize your schedule to find what changes you can make--you may find that TV and social media consume more of your time than you realize. Just think. If you walk, garden, or do any physical activity while outside in nature, you get double the benefit: exercise and green time! Even if you start with a daily ten minute stroll in a garden or park during your work break, you will benefit.
Dear friends, I offer suggestions such as these to encourage you to regularly spend time thinking and praying about your health of body, mind and spirit, which are so tightly interconnected. Many of you do not feel as well as you like because of illness, ailments or stress. If you take the time, I am confident that you can find a new step or direction, even a very tiny change, that will move you in the direction of improved serenity and health. You are in my prayers. Donna
PHOTOS FROM RECENT YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK VISIT