The natural habitat of man is not inside. Adam was created and placed in a garden that was created for him to work and rule, a garden that was already good but would in some wonderful way be made even better with man’s creativity. Creation seems to need us. Long after the Fall of man St. Paul says that creation – the entire cosmos – is still waiting eagerly for the full revelation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19).
But we also need creation. We are not angels by the very fact of having a body. Part of having a body is the reality of the senses and gradual learning. It is creation itself that is the first to reveal to us the truths of life and God. As the Catechism says, it contains the “radiance of his majesty” (2809).
We begin existence in an oasis of pure pampering, but after the dramatic experience of birth we start a new process of learning about the world. It begins in the face of a mother that is our first inkling that life is, in fact, very good, as God said. We then begin to feel the pain and delights of hots and colds and breezes and sunshine and dirt. Ah, dirt. That glorious friend that God used to form us and graciously receives us back upon death. The seasons reveal an ordered God. Darkness speaks. Food ties us to nature. The delicacies of some creatures reveal our power. The power of other creatures reveals to us that we are not gods. Creation is always speaking to us. It can’t help it.
But we sure can miss it. Screen time, AC, electric ovens – all of these things are a removal from nature and, therefore, a removal from a message. Of course, our senses are still somewhat awake when we use these things, and few would be willing to live without them, but we must at least acknowledge that time spent under artificial lighting surrounded by artificially temperature-controlled air watching amusing things on screens is not exactly a stroll through the garden with God. I just don’t hear a message spoken in a room filled with fluorescence and smelling of Febreze.
On a recent evening I had a toddler whose bedtime got all screwy, and it required a walk through an unmowed or grazed pasture on our farm. As I walked, the summer sun illuminated the seedheads of the grass, creating what appeared as a cloud above the green. The trees were thick with summer’s leaves. Left alone to grow, the Queen Anne’s Lace was showing off her namesake. As the short walk came to a close I saw the restless and frustrated toddler had drifted to a deep rest. I had too (though I was still awake), and I thanked God for the message of peace, order, and dignity He spoke through creation.
St. Bernard said we can’t read the Book of God before reading the Book of Nature (meaning we can’t study the words of revelation without the message of creation). The materialists tell me all I witnessed in my pasture is chance and survival, but the man of wisdom knows better. Creation has something to say, and, therefore, it was said with the intention of being heard. There is no word spoken not meant for another. Some studieshave shown that even seeing a picture of nature can make us feel happier. If you are having trouble hearing God or finding peace in the throes and battles of life, it might be time for a walk. You might find in your native habitat – the one maybe just outside your door – a message you needed to hear.