Starting Point
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Issue Date:  August 25, 2006

Starting Point


This past summer my daughters spent a week at a children’s nature camp. They spent the mornings strolling through butterfly gardens, identifying animal tracks and learning how bees make honey. At the ages of 4 and 6, they still easily delight in the discoveries that a little nature provides. We adults, on the other hand, often seem harder to impress.

There was one day when I joined the campers on a short hike into the woods to explore a creek. While we were walking, Patrick, the camp’s naturalist, spoke to us about the plants and trees that made their home along the trail. At the creek he had the children lift up small rocks to see what might be living underneath. Patrick could identify all the little critters that scurried away, and knew quite a bit about how each species got by from day to day.

He made me think about interspecies relations, and the mutualism that the human species was meant to enjoy with the natural world.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” wrote Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. And “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”

Though it may go unnoticed, there is plenty of grandeur and freshness under a rock in the woods. When it comes to the natural world, majestic mountain ranges, the roar of our oceans, and the vastness of the universe seem to steal our attention. Being quiet, still, and often dull in color, a rock in a creek is easily overlooked. Take a look underneath though, and you will see the grandeur of God, working as it so often does, in that which goes unseen.

If it has been awhile since you’ve overturned a rock, you might be amazed, as I was, at how much is going on underneath them. Life teems under them, with insects and microorganisms all going about their business in an inconspicuous expression of the numinous. I had no idea what I was missing. If you find yourself near a rock, it might be worth lifting it up to sneak a quick peek.

Mark Graceffo is a librarian at St. Peter’s College, Jersey City, N.J.

National Catholic Reporter, August 25, 2006

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