I feel like I need to add something to a letter I wrote to the Star on the Group of Seven and our relationship with nature


I wrote that the ‘idealized’ paintings of nature should inspire us to seek out wildness and cultivate a richer, more harmonious relationship with nature.

I think this short letter I wrote years ago shows some of my Celtic pagan roots, perhaps, that I’ve been ruminating on and trying to deal with for a few days now. Still, I hope this intense relationship with nature is now a strong part of my faith. I know that God wants us to delight in our relations with His Creation. The origin of the word relation is from the old French bring back, and all of Creation wants to return to God. My relations to nature are similar to my relations to my childhood home- I care so much more about my family than I do the physical building, but how I relate to the building does help remind me of those important family experiences. I hope that my relationship with nature is like the relationship of the man with the field in Jesus’ parable Matthew 13: for the treasure is the Kingdom of Heaven, but the man sold everything he had for the field that he found it in. That treasure is most important, but where it is found also then becomes a joy and takes on a special quality you’ll always relate to that grace and that treasure.

I should add that relationship with nature is one of stewardship and once we are moved by the beauty of Creation, and find harmony within it, then that richness is what happens when, as Chesterton said, ‘good things run wild.’ That our relationship with nature is most rich when we see God’s pleasure. You would want to take care of that field because it is where you found the treasure. You would sell everything you have to keep that connection with the treasure and the memory of the joyous moment you found it.

We can’t learn without relationship, and the ultimate relationship is with Jesus. We can also learn from harmonious relationships with The Gospels and Creation, and all of those other little relationships are tributaries that flow into these big rivers and ultimately return to the source, and I hope these relationships are rich enough to bear fruit of the spirit, because where your treasure is is where your heart is


I read about a guide in Gray’s Sporting Journal and I keep thinking about it

So, the angling editor wrote about a time when a guide told him his secret to success: he made his sports pick their own flies, because then they cared about them more and they fished with more purpose and the experience was more memorable that way.

Well this really got me thinking as a teacher first. It’s so important for a student to know why something he is learning is important to him personally.

I think I’m also drawn to this little anecdote because I like ‘picking’ with my brother- driving around and finding something interesting.

Then I thought about how it’s very easy to care about something we pick- also how we sometimes care for things we don’t pick, though.

When you love somebody you don’t lose your freedom to pick- it just isn’t as important anymore. You’re happy just to be with that other person, so that everything she picks makes you happy and you care about it.

That’s the mystery, eh? How much do we pick our love and why is it that we don’t care as much about picking afterwards? You can pull at the picking end of the thread or the loving end and you’ll just make that knot tighter, I think.

I have some thoughts about energy and the environment 

There aren’t often technological solutions to moral problems, and we’ve seen the world over, if vice is left to fester then technology just amplifies the consequences. 

The way I see it, the earth and all of it’s wonderful diversity need us to live more humbly– not find an alternative source of energy to fuel our current lifestyles or make them even more lavish. 

George Herbert knew well that what people really want isn’t to be big shots but to be new and small. The only way to make that happen is to see greatness and accept your part in it- and that’s very hard. 

The nuclear zone in Chernobyl is now a natural paradise just because we’ve let it be and nature always surprises with its resiliency when we give it space. I don’t want more roads in Algonquin park for logging and tourism. If we just explored our crown lands on foot, then day hikes would still surprise everyday with beauty and the rare long hike would still be a marvel, they’d still be holy places. 

The problem is all of the roads and mansions in the country and the outrageous amount of energy we use- there are roads crisscrossing all over the place in southwestern Ontario, taking away space and killing all the turtles and snakes. I think we should be talking about habitat loss as much as climate change and renewable energy. I just don’t think wind and solar on just as massive a scale as fossil fuels now will solve our environmental problems, with the tons of concrete poured over rural land and massive bird bashing propellers slowing down wind streams, like our dams intervene with most rivers now, and panels and batteries filled with metals very costly to mine and recycle to block and use the rays on a massive scale that would otherwise go into the earth. 

I know I’m not living up to any solution and I’ll keep searching for how I can live more harmoniously with the dream of the earth. 

On the efficiency of form and function in nature

On the efficiency of form and function in nature

I once saw a big bird of prey in a nest on top of a hydro tower. I was driving to a friend’s cottage- pursuing the elusive peace of the country- when I saw the bird at the side of the road in front of acres and acres of tall white pines. The majestic bird didn’t give a damn what the hydro tower looked like; the bird just knew that, for whatever reason, it worked better than the pines. That the bird picked the hydro tower got me questioning why I regretted the fact I was leaving an old cottage and outhouse for the comforts and innovations in town.

I mean it’s kind of funny- we prefer the designs and feel of things in nature and wildlife often make do with the things we manufacture. The bird seems much more practical than I am. I wouldn’t give up my inefficient, unworldly nostalgic streak, though. The idea of peace and exhilaration that exists in nature somewhere between my memory and my imagination inspires me to build great friendships and beautiful things, and while many people say nature is indifferent, I’m happy I’m not that efficient (and I think every individual animal has a unique character).