by Laurie Klein,
World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
Everything is interconnected,
and genuine care for our own lives
and our relationships with nature
from fraternity, justice, and faithfulness to others.
—Pope Francis, “Laudato Si,” or “Praised Be”
FIVE SEMI-WILD ACRES. Three spirited decades spent exploring them—garden and meadow, wetlands, and woods. Over time, a poem arose:
How to Live Like a Backyard Psalmist
Wear shoes with soles like meringue
and moon-blue stitching so that
every day, for at least ten minutes,
you feel ten years old.
Befriend what crawls, tunnels,
flits, and spawns . . .
Drink rain—hatless, laughing.
Sit on your heels before anything plush
or vaguely kinetic, like
hazel-green kneelers of moss
waving their little parcels
of spores, on hair-trigger stems.
Ponder the strange,
the charged, the dangerous:
lightning on stilts, stalking horizons;
Orion’s owl, cruising
at dusk. Note every blight
and bloom: now, igniting
the sandalwood candle,
gather each strand of the day
and the blue pen, like a needle.
Suture what you can.*
But how do I even begin to mend this bountiful, wounded world lurching toward chaos?
I’ve had to start small, with my own backyard, learn names for what lives here, notice what threatens growth. Noxious weeds can be pulled, each stooping bow a potential posture for prayer. Diseased trees can be pruned, or removed with care.
Sometimes the upkeep gets me down. Where would I be without God’s drop-ins? Each speaks its own language. All are eloquent.
- A scruffy deer with delicate lips beheads my tulips.
- Quail romp and bobble beneath the silvery arc of the sprinkler.
- Kamikaze moths barnstorm my lamplit screens at dusk.
Purely present, uniquely themselves, each seems a psalmist. Are creaturely hymns intrinsic? Perhaps they are saying: “Feast often; play more; follow the light.”
I Googled “Fun facts about deer,” then quail, then hummingbird moths. Curiosity invites further discovery, which evokes marvel, then gratitude. Affection ensues.
We protect what we cherish.
Still, I remain wary of wild things and keep my distance. Dare I trust them? And what makes me think they will tolerate my approach? Traits of both lion and lamb conflict my thinking. I want to be admired and rule my turf: I also want to meekly conform, sheep-like—unwilling to lead.
To what extent does the long-promised, peaceable kingdom begin within the human heart?
Enter the porcupine. Formidable spines backlit, it lumbers across the field, spiky tail sashaying. I tiptoe behind it at first, then, enchanted, right alongside. Our gazes lock. The space between us feels charged with wonder. Later, I learn the young are called porcupettes. A group is known as a prickle. And no, they don’t shoot their quills.
O what a quirky, lovable, intricate world!
- An insouciant moose high-steps my fence.
- Someone’s raucous, runaway peacocks, tails at half-mast, crisscross the drive.
- A snake the color of giblets oozes across my kitchen floor.
I sense unspoken invitations: “Stretch your limits; sing, however you can; brave the unexpected.”
A Jewish phrase, tikkun olam, inspires me: “mend the world each day.” The more I learn and observe, the greater my resolve to serve and conserve. The creatures are becoming my mentors.
Cherishing my own backyard widens my view.
Fellow psalmists, will you join me on this World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation?
Source and Sustainer of Life—wild and tame, alive and inert—you bowl us over with Beauty! Thank you for skies hosting light shows, cloudscapes, insects, and birds; seas teeming with countless enigmas; subterranean strata cradling gems, minerals, and ore; terrain bristling with vegetation.
The world you delight in offers us clothing, nourishment, guidance and rescue, income, companionship, medicine, rest, wisdom and opportunity, recreation and so much more.
Thank you for creatures entrusted to our personal care. We lift them before you now . . .
You have interwoven our lives with myriad mysteries. Forgive our indifference. Our laziness. Our occasional greed. Guide our lifestyle choices toward safeguarding fragile habitats.
For the endangered and wantonly sullied: Lord, help us foster rejuvenation.
Amid rising temperatures and dwindling populations, erratic weather, and pervasive ruin: grant us creative means to effect change.
Help us tend and defend the natural world with savvy compassion. With practical hope. With humor and grateful awe.
Dear Maker and Master of all that lives, may your creation-in-waiting once again thrive. May each aspect—along with our efforts—be graced by your wise, redemptive, transfiguring love. Amen.
Perhaps every life, fully awakened, can become a healing psalm.
Meander outdoors. What draws your attention? Can a tree or a brook or a stone be a psalmist? What about you? This week, how might you eavesdrop on naturally embodied praise?
- Branch out from your own backyard. Take a virtual stroll through the fabulous Lehman Caves here.
- Immerse in undersea marvels below.
- Fall in love with God’s creatures via these compelling meditations for Advent and Lent, written by Gayle Boss, All Creation Waits.
- Wild Hope: Stories for the Vanishing—extraordinary “collaborations of hope” between humans and endangered species.
- Glimpse the peaceable kingdom as animals rescue one another here.
- Read and celebrate Earth: Our Original Monastery, by Christine Valters-Paintner.
- For the history of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and further resources visit here.
- Read more excerpts from “Laudato Si,” by Pope Francis.
- Peaceable kingdom trailer here:
*“How to Live Like a Backyard Psalmist” first appeared in Where the Sky Opens, by Laurie Klein (Poeima/Cascade). https://wipfandstock.com/9781498230902/where-the-sky-opens/
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