Pope Francis said it:
“…nature can be church.”
I am glad to have church
community, of the human kind.
But honestly, I am most in touch
with the beauty, freedom, warmth,
wonder, mystery and challenge of life
when I am outdoors in nature.
Last Sunday morning
I took a walk
on the prairie, stopping first
to visit with a neighboring farmer
driving by in his pickup truck. Talk
here now is about a prospective
wind farm that would spread
across the land we love. Will we never
stop having to face critical,
heart-rending dilemmas?! My answer
to his angst-ridden question—Do I
want to see wind turbines rising
up from the prairie?—was angst-ridden
as well. I don’t want to see the elegant,
haunting roll of the prairie,
that plaintive curve on the eastern horizon,
interrupted. But just there on the western horizon,
look: already
a cell tower, and along a line
180-degrees from there
to the north, oil pump, oil tanks,
a giant, light-saturated truck stop
on Interstate 35 with its roaring double-loaded
18-wheelers, more oil pumps and more
oil tanks. It takes 13 frames in my camera
to chronicle the interruptions on the western curve
of the prairie. And
if it means saving the planet
from disasters and extinctions
due to global warming,
bring on the wind farm. I’ll
further sacrifice
my aesthetic sensibilities.
It was a friendly conversation;
Sunday’s sermon
with an environmental justice message.

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I walked off road then,
across a cattle guard,
over an abandoned oil field road,
westward, out toward a flood control dam
and the reservoir it has created.
Sunflowers, Willows, Cottonwoods,
masses of lavender flowers,
way too much of the shorter ragweed,
broomweed—its masses of tiny bright yellow flowers
just beginning to bloom—
a few deep purple stickery thistles
and, at water’s edge,
two pair of Great White Egrets
fishing.
My heart flashes warmth,
flushes,
thrills.
I watch
then walk, sit
and watch,
then walk
as my heart loosens
from all concern
and I am free to take in sky
and green
and flower
and the gentle breeze
and the play of sunlight on wiggly
Cottonwood leaves, the elegance
of great white birds
with curved necks
and wide wings. Soar I would
if I could and do
anyway.

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Sun is high
as I climb over a barbed wire fence
and walk through thigh-high prairie grasses
towards the house. Water shines
in a small pond,
finally with water,
encircled with sunflowers.

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I stand near the edge,
drinking in the gleam of sparkling water
and when my camera shutter
clicks
something in the tall grass
next to me
makes an unheard-of sound,
like something big emerging
through the suction of mud,
or maybe it was a snarl
or growl. I run.
Never have I been afraid
on the prairie. But I was.
Something unseen, unknown
had warned me.

Church, indeed—
experienced beauty,
love,
connection,
freedom,
social justice teaching:
Humans are here,
a part of this planet.
Because we too
are connected to everything
that is, everything
we do
or don’t do
matters. Consider well,
for all,
our response
to each moment.
And enjoy,
savor,
celebrate.

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