I believe nature is my religion, the force of life my God. In natural surroundings, my problems are eased, and life comes into perspective. I pray, meditate and seek out counsel in nature.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to find my God. I become distracted, irreverent. But natures always reminds, extending itself through a breeze, a flower in the crack of a sidewalk, a pellet of rain. I am accepted each time I return, and told I am not so alone in this world. A whole universe keeps me company.
Beautiful life inevitably brings struggle. At age 18 I developed ulcerative colitis. Doctors prescribed high doses of steroids in attempts to keep the disease under control. The drugs made me restless, sleepless, and while lying alone in bed my anxiety grew, sprouting vines that tied me up. I fought through the knots, hopped in my car, and scouted out new hiking trails at 8 a.m., 6 a.m., occasionally as early as 4 in the morning. Once in my house of worship I inhaled life: the scent of growth, renewal, and rebirth. The roots of my fears slowly dissipated.
Two years later and desperate for a cure, I placed myself into the cavalier hands of doctors, allowing them to open my body and remove precious innards. Left with an open wound 10 inches long, two inches wide and an ileostomy bag, I returned home only able to lie in bed for several weeks. Distressed, depressed, and panicked, I lost myself. My lifestyle severely restricted, I no longer knew where to find my identity. In an act of ingenuity my grandmother and I purchased a hammock. Each morning I slowly maneuvered my worn body down the stairs, through the dining room, out the back door and downward three steps to reach my hammock. I lay for hours at a time. Swaying ever so slightly to the breeze, hearing rustling leaves, and listening to the tunes of bird melodies. I admired the summer green of the trees and began my gradual journey into well-being.
Now I find myself in the foreign lands of Northern Ireland working daily with families of the Belfast troubles. I am surrounded by aggression, neglect, conflict and sadness generations old. Some mornings I awaken with despair deep within me. I am grieved by the life of these children, the peril of the streets. I yearn for the solace and comfort of home, for someone to tell me “everything will be okay, you will find your way.” Once again I return to nature. I rest in a field with the sun shining down, breathe in my anguish and blow it out to a force so much greater than me. To a power that existed long before me, and that I will return to when I am no longer in this state of being. Consoled by life’s mysterious beauty I relax. I find guidance. This I believe.
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