The glory of God’s created world—the birds and beasts, flowers and trees—glistens as one of my favorite story motifs. Along with the sea and sky, I’m enchanted by mountains, meadows, and woodland marvels. As the hymnwriter Maltbie Babcock told his wife when heading for a walk along the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, l just love “going out to see the Father’s world.”
“All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child.” –Marie Curie
Even many of my titles revolve around a nature theme. Destiny at Dolphin Bay features a pod of dolphins, of course, along with sheep and oxen, horses and healing herbs. In Pursuit of the Pudú, the characters chase not only an elusive pudú, the world’s smallest deer, but also view flamingos, salmon farms, and virgin cypress forests.
A collie pup shows up in First Mate’s Log, in addition to seahorses, seagulls, and seashell silk. Among the Swan Island Secrets are heritage plants in two national parks, a herd of poached huemules (Andean mountain deer), and—naturally—a bevy of black-necked swans.
While I admit to being more of a gardener than an animal lover, surely we as creation’s crown should appreciate both plant and animal kingdoms in our Father’s world. The bounty and beauty of this earth offers a home to all of us. Isn’t that what ecology means? The “study of homes, or habitats.”
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” –Shakespeare
The Quarantine Tales Continue
While Keli Peterson emcees the round-robin of storytelling during another tedious week of quarantine on the Chilean coast, she camouflages her own anxieties about her husband. Pierre is flying research teams in the Antarctic—at least, he was—but winter’s coming on in the Southern Hemisphere. She repeats her mantra: Al mal tiempo, buena cara. “Put a good face on bad times,” advises the Chilean proverb.
Up to spin a tale today is Lucas Serrano. He’s selected a swan-shaped plant pot, embellished with clam shells. Since his father’s the nature-nut ranger, the others figure he’ll share some anecdote about growing up in the Patagonian wilderness.
“Nope, wrong.” He smirks at Nach. “But ladies first, while the suspense mounts. Estella seems excited to go next.”
His older cousin, Estella Jarpa, has rejected the entire grab bag of story prompts to dig up a ratty blue crocheted dolphin from the house.
Keli shakes her head, chuckling. “Haven’t you carted that thing around since you were a kid? But I guess you grew up on Dolphin Bay.”
“So did Nach and Marina, though not as much as I did.” And Estella launches into “Dolphins on Duty,” her skillful weaving of the legend of a dolphin rescue on the night of her birth with a present-day shipwreck in distant Chiloé where she serves as a nurse. And where myths and tall tales make up everyday conversation.
“Between every two pines there is a doorway to a new world.” –John Muir
“Do you really believe that?” Micaela asks. “I mean, the part about the dolphins working to lifeguard you all to shore?”
“I don’t think they were working at it, they were playing,” Estella says. “Albert Einstein said dolphins must be smarter than humans because they play more.” 🙂
Just what they were created to be and do in the Father’s world.
Life Hacks from a Dolphin
“So we could learn from the dolphins,” she finishes. “Smarten up and do things just for fun.”
- Have a playful spirit.
- Be curious.
- Find someone you really click with.
- Sound out new ideas.
- Consider the flip side.
- Glide through the day with ease.
- Find your life’s ‘porpoise.’
- Jump for joy!
“Loving Creator, help me reawaken my childlike sense of wonder at the delights of your world.” –Marilyn Morgan Helleberg
Blossoms or Blobs
Like the character Marcos Serrano (that’s Lucas’s dad), I believe we must worship the Creator, not the creation. We care more passionately for people than for penguins or palm trees.
Yet, in much of my work, the goodness of God’s gifts shouts the message of God’s love. Our anticipation of a heavenly home never meant we should treat this earthly eco with ingratitude and indifference. While far from extreme environmental activism, I reject the careless contamination and greed where God intended conscientious stewardship and joyous celebration.
Because this is indeed my Father’s world, and I delight in it as I delight in Him.
Living in a country with some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery on the planet, how sad if I ended up like C. S. Lewis’s narrator in The Great Divorce. When, upon arrival in the afterlife, he asks why all the flowers look like mere blobs of color, his mentor replies, “That’s because you never really looked at them when you were alive.”
“Time spent among trees is never wasted time.” –Katrina Mayer
Do I take the time to look and be amazed? To stop and smell the roses, to listen to the wind sawing in the tree tops? To play with kittens and pet the dog?
Or are my eyes on the clock? My fingers on the keyboard and my ears attuned to my phone? Am I becoming more like a biological computer—always busy, multitasking, running in the background even when not actually working—than a living creation of God? Do I produce for praise and profit? Or do I grow and flourish, like nature itself, because I’m at home in my Father’s world?
Bios or Zoe
Recently I had the opportunity to zero in on the two Greek words the Bible uses for life:
Bios, from which we derive our word “biology,” is the term for ordinary physical life as we know it here on earth. Its finite parameters mean that we only have so much time to enjoy it.
On the other hand, zoe (think “zoology”) focuses on infinite and unlimited spiritual life such as the Father possesses and imparts to His children. It’s life that lasts forever. It is the abundant life of John 10:10 that delivers on every promise and satisfies every longing for joy.
Zoe life offers far more than temporary biological existence. It throbs with eternal energy and heavenly vivacity. In God’s ecology, we enjoy both homes as He transforms forms bios into zoe.
And when so much bad happens daily and sometimes my perspective narrows to my own backyard, let me remember that our Father declared His world “very good” (Gen. 1:31). That’s dolphins and deer, larks and lilies, you and me.
“This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” –Maltbie D. Babcock