The mountains are calling and I must go. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.– John Muir
Part of this quote is carved into the stairs at the trailhead at Mt. Rainier in Washington State. This is the place where climbers wishing to ascend to the summit begin a two-day journey to reach the 14,000-plus foot peak.
On the mid-Autumn day that I visited the park, the shrinking glaciers were evident as the Northwestern U.S. has been grappling with a long-standing drought that has diminished a good deal of the park’s natural beauty from its glacial melt-fed streams to waterfalls. It is difficult not to come away with a greater appreciation for the fragility of nature even in the shadow of such an imposing mountain that can be seen with clarity from over 50 miles away from a tangled web of freeways in the Seattle metro area.
Muir’s naturalism though was firmly rooted in his Christian faith and the same could be said for other pioneers in the environmental movement, as I outline in this month’s feature.
Nature’s majesty as the seasons change especially can provide one with a sense of awe and perhaps heighten our own sense of wonder in looking at the world around us. What is it about nature? What about God? Did God create these wonders in order for us to pillage and plunder them for our own survival?
We too are part of nature, as Dr. Phil Hefner reminds us in his essay on naturalism. He writes, “The mystery is an invitation to explore what this tells us about God’s intentions for us and how this relates to our traditional beliefs, such as the image of God, sin, and grace. This idea of nature is fundamental to the Christian tradition…”
God, the world around us, nature, and even our cosmos is all tied into a unified story of grace. One that is unfolding and changing around us each and every day. Follow Muir and explore with wonder and appreciation!
Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.