To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
– Auguries of Innocence, William Blake
My family frequents a small piece of the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, where our children, nieces and nephews attended a conservation education camp. One of the most delightful and revealing experiences we’ve enjoyed there is taking a night hike. Walking in the woods gives me a different sense of the greatness of creation, of its infinite complexities and interconnectedness. And something about the darkness sharpens, awakens all the senses to what is both far and near.
One such night hike found our path to Buttermilk Springs spangled with tiny jewels twinkling in our flashlights’ beams: they were the eyes of spiders, catching the light, and they were everywhere that night, alive to our intrusion on their nocturnal hunting grounds. I’ve walked to Buttermilk Springs many times since, but never witnessed this galaxy of arachnid luminescence again. It was the season for these spiders, and we were mere witnesses of the show.
What else lines the footpaths of our lives, unremarked until a chance beam of light might fall? And, listening to the voice of Micah in our lectionary recently, I’m musing: how do we not merely celebrate but do real justice toward and walk humbly with all God’s creatures, great and small? How can we take those injunctions to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God and apply them to more sustainable patterns of living?
It surely begins with remembering who and whose we are, and with awareness of the wider world and our various footprints on it, that we might walk humbly and lightly while on this fragile earth, our island home.
– Joanne Hutton