This holiday season, I’ve allowed myself to just be; a mum, a partner, a sister and a daughter, back “home” in Sweden with my family. I have also spent a fair bit of time reading and what has really provided a soothing, comforting read, is “In search of grace – An ecological pilgrimage”, by Peter Reason.
But rather than doing a book review I will share with you my own moment of grace and why I think it matters.
On the first day of the New Year, I went out for a walk. It had been a grey start to the morning, but it was lighting up, the sun was making good attempts to break through the clouds, and as my children and their cousins got ready to go to the park to play, I decided to go out too, for a walk. We were on the south-east coast of Sweden, with family, in an area that I don’t know that well. So, after being guided by the children to the park, I waved good bye and set off in a random direction. It was a very mild start to the New Year, not a snow flake in sight, and rather wet after the rain that had fallen on New Year’s Eve.
I walked through a sparsely developed housing estate, and just after a few minutes I found myself in quite a rural area, with a few houses dotted along the meandering country road, trees standing bare and in silence, many of them old, with branches covered in white and grey lichens, like old, wise men. This particular type of lichen, indicating that the air is of good quality, and I took a deep breath, inhaling and smelling soft earth, brown leaves, moss and wet ground. A winter kind of smell, when there is no snow cover.
Turning into a gravel path, enjoying my brisk walk, stretching my legs, feeling the fresh air on my face, the area I wandered through becoming even more rural, bucolic my partner would say; grassy fields, granite stones mostly covered in soft, green moss, a few green pine trees and several trees which had dropped their leaves for the winter; birch, aspen and rowan. Then I heard it, a little bird singing, and there he was, a nuthatch, sitting on a branch just in front of me. When I got too close, he flew to the next tree, and I slowed down. The sun was shining straight in my face, the pale winter light barely warming my cheeks, a few white clouds chasing across the sky, the nuthatch singing in solo. The droplets suspended in line, upon line, on the bare tree branches, glittering like silver. It was as if they all knew. The birds, the trees, the moss on the stones and the stones themselves, broken off from the hard granite bedrock a long time ago. Even the waterdrops, they knew, what I was just feeling. That we all, humans and all life, are part of the circle, and apologies for sounding like a phrase from The Lion King, but the circle of life. And yet, it is more than that, we are a part of the community of beings on Earth and in my walk, in this moment of grace, I felt a connection beyond me as a human, part of the more than human world.
So, I had a beautiful experience during my winter walk. An experience which put a wide smile on my face, almost laughing at the small stream and the leaps of joy the water was making, swirling and twirling, singing in the pale winter light. Why do I think this matters? Because if we all knew this, if we could all feel this, moments of grace, in our lives, would we not be more careful with our community and everyone and everything in it? I think so. Peter Reason is talking about a transformation of human consciousness if we are to create a civilization in balance with the ecology of the planet. I think we could all do with falling in love with the planet, with nature and the more than human world, again. Maybe then we would start treating her with more respect.
I didn’t have my mobile with me, so I couldn’t capture the trees with their lichens, the light, the droplets, the fields, the stones with their moss, my moment of grace. Instead I have tried to catch the feeling in a poem, which I hope you will enjoy.
The birds that sing from the bare winter branch
they sing to us, and they know
The soft green moss on rocks and stones,
the stream that jumps over pebbles and grass,
they whisper it, and they know
The droplets suspended in air, glittering like silver in the pale sun, they know
and they tell us
If we listen
in a moment of grace
we can feel, and we know
we are a part
of the world, of Earth, of the wheel, of all life