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Nature's Humbling Lessons

One of my favorite books this winter has been The Overstory, written by Richard Powers. It is the story of how people are affected and influenced by trees. Powers is a retired English professor who taught at Stanford and though he has written many novels this one received the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Not only is it beautifully written, but it introduces the readers to a new way of thinking about trees and vegetation. Part of the genius of this novel is that he writes a book in which the trees become like characters but it never crosses the line into fantasy or New Age philosophy. It is hard to read this book without gaining a wholly new and heightened respect for the lasting influence and power of nature.  In an interview about the book, Powers revealed that he was so affected by his research for this novel that he moved to the Smokey Mountains in order to lived in one of the few remaining old growth forests. The people and the plot are all fictional, but the vast knowledge Powers shares about how trees communicate, help one another and champion this organic flow of life in the forest is all based on scientific research. At this point in the industrial age finding a new appreciation for forests and wildlife is one of our more humbling lessons as humans. It comes after decades of believing we have every right to subdue nature, manipulate it and tame it for our latest whim. We have a history of putting buildings and infrastructure wherever we please, even at the risk of tampering with whole eco-systems if they get in our way.   It is a hard heart that is not affected by the news of the devastation in Australia, and the toll that the fires there have taken on millions of animals and billions of trees. This latest major assault to an island continent with some very unique species of animals and plants reminds us again that nature does have a breaking point and while it is resilient, it is also fragile.  Powers says that people suffer from “species loneliness” . It comes from being dis-connected from nature. Modern humans have failed to appreciate our inter-dependence with the earth, and that change has come at a high cost, not just for the earth but for us. It contributes to our sense of isolation.  We need nature more than most of us acknowledge.  It nurtures us and feeds a hungry space in our souls. But then, most of you know that. It is nature that brought you to the Cape. When you sense the fundamental connection with the natural world, you find that you are not lonely even if you live alone or walk outdoors alone. Nature is a character in the story of life on Cape Cod. It is the birds that wake you in the morning. It is the wind or water that delights you on your way in the day. It's the lap of waves that lulls you to sleep.   Enjoy!  Blessings, Rev. Susan

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