Reverend Candace McKibben
On a recent walk through the wooded paths of Alford Greenway, I noticed a beautiful dew-laden cobweb. What caught my eye, I’m sure, were the glistening dewdrops that glisten like diamonds in the sun.
But what caught my attention was the spider, which seemed to be working diligently to sweep the dewdrops from the web. I was fascinated by the spider’s persistence in ridding the web of moisture and wondered if this spider was just demanding or had I missed seeing this behavior in the spider webs early in the morning that I have admired before.
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I have since heard of a photographer in Italy who specializes in photographing through morning dew droplets. Alberto Gizzi Panizza captures nature through perfectly spherical dewdrops with his Nikkon D7100 camera and the results are stunning.
Wasp spiders, primrose flowers, moths and ladybugs seem to be encapsulated in the droplets, which act like a fairground mirror gallery. During his morning photography sessions in the Guastalla region of Italy, Panizza says: “Sometimes I see spiders cleaning their webs, knocking down the dew.
Hymn to nature
Scientists suggest that condensation forms on the web, and although the shimmer can attract insects, the dew prevents insects from sticking to the surface of the web. The spider consumes part of the water and drops the rest in order to restore the stickiness of the web.
I marvel at how creatures large and small adapt to their environment with behaviors that promote well-being.
An old hymn that I hadn’t thought of in years came to my heart as I continued my walk, thinking of the spider dutifully sweeping its web. Titled “This Is My Father’s World”, it was written by a Presbyterian minister, Maltbie Davenport Babcock, who lived between 1858 and 1901.
He served a church in Lockport, New York, near Lake Ontario and was known for his daily nature walks while pastoring there. The poem that became the hymn has sixteen four-line stanzas, although I only know three of them from my own childhood. And these are the three that came to my heart and lips along the Alford Greenway trail.
The first stanza speaks of the song of nature and the “music of the spheres”, a reference from Greek philosophy to the movement of the Sun, the Moon and the planets, creating a perfect sound or music that cannot be heard by the human ears. Beyond these ethereal wonders, the first stanza appreciates rocks, trees, skies and seas, very concrete gifts of nature.
The second stanza I remember from my youth speaks of birds raising their songs in the morning light and other proofs of God shining in all that is beautiful.
The third stanza is not about the beauty of nature but about the condition of our world where evil seems so strong. Yet he asserts that God reigns and the earth should be happy.
Sense of healing and forest bathing
As I walked and sang, alone in the splendor of nature, I realized that I would like this hymn to be sung at my funeral, which I hope is still far away, but I know it is closer. now that they never were.
The hymn speaks to me about my love of nature and my faith in God, two subjects of great importance to me.
Like many people, I find a sense of “other,” or in my personal belief, a sense of God, in nature and I feel it can be a source of healing and hope for all.
Certainly not all people agree on the scriptures or if there are any scriptures. Even for those of us who believe in the same scripture, we often differ on its interpretation. But as humans, we all experience nature and can benefit from allowing ourselves to be transformed by its wonders.
The Japanese have long known that spending mindful time in the woods, a practice called Shinrin-yoku or literally “forest bathing”, benefits the body and mind, boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and promotes sleep. It’s about walking slowly through a forest, soaking up the atmosphere with all your senses and enjoying the benefits of such an excursion.
Webb photos and ‘listening ears’
According to the National Library of Medicine, during the first two years of the COVID 19 pandemic, growing evidence shows that exposure to the natural environment (eg, blue-green spaces) can improve health and well -human beings.
Using a narrative review approach of 225 studies around the world, an article titled “Nature’s Contributions to Coping with a Pandemic” concluded that “exposure to nature may have prevented further deterioration in health mental and physical on a large scale”.
How we engage nature matters. It requires “listening ears”, as Maltbie Babcock wrote in the poem that became the beloved anthem.
While listening to podcasts or favorite music or chatting with a friend on the phone or as a walking companion has value, the type of engagement in nature that brings the most healing is the type of interaction which is conscious, present, in the moment, so that we don’t miss the spider sweeping its web or nature singing, as the hymn-writer describes it.
Recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope have wowed us with the vastness of our universe, “the music of the spheres” as the ancients described it years ago.
And there’s a universe waiting for us every time we explore nature more closely around us, whether it’s a hovering hummingbird suspended in mid-air as it draws nectar from a plant in tubular salvia in the backyard, a gnarled tree that has withstood countless storms and other infractions with a story to tell, or a double rainbow with inverted colors, a feature I only noticed ‘after reading the calendar from a Farmer’s Almanac.
Greater Good Science Center researchers studying why nature heals humans speculate that the experience “induces a ‘smaller self’ – the feeling that you are in the presence of something bigger than yourself – which can make past worries or current worries less significant by comparison.”
I know it’s true for me. I pray that we are all able to find time to benefit from nature’s healing balm.
Reverend Candace McKibben is an ordained minister and pastor of Tallahassee Fellowship.
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