Thought for the week – 30.4.20

St Martin's Cross, Iona

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Nature’s good medicine

In Matthew Chapter 6 we read that Jesus said: ‘Look at the birds of the air…consider the lilies of the field…’ and he said that in the context of God`s care for all creation, of which, of course, we are a part. In recent years the healing power of nature has been recognised, and that message is needed more than ever in these present anxious days.

In the early 1980’s I spent a while in hospital, a simple cartilage operation on my knee, which today would probably be dealt with in a day using keyhole surgery – back then entailed 10 days total bed rest! The window of my ward looked out on a brick wall. The only natural thing I saw in those dreary January days was a snowfall and I watched entranced as the flakes fell. The thing that really helped me as a nature lover was a picture on the wall, a print of one of Peter Scott’s wildlife paintings, and I would gaze at it, imagining myself there, feeling the wind on my face and hearing the honking of geese.

That experience gives me some kind of empathy for people all over the world right now who live in small flats in big towns. Like many (but by no means all) Oban Times’ readers I have nature on my doorstep, and can get out each day to walk along a deserted beach, or onto the hillside.

Spring is suddenly here and migratory birds have arrived. Someone heard a corncrake the other day, the first swallows are here, and a few days ago I sat by some bushes trying to identify a small bird flitting about which, of course, as soon as I got it in focus through the binoculars, flew off elsewhere. I think it was a chiff chaff, but identification wasn’t really important, what struck me most about these birds was the long journey they had made across land and sea to get here, with so many dangers along the way.

Walking along the beach below my house the thrift is in bud and some flowers newly opened. It grows on the rocks which are often covered by the sea at high tide and which received such a battering this past winter with so many big storms. And yet, bruised and battered, it is still hanging on and producing flowers. There are positive messages for us all around in the natural world.

Well, this is all very well for the likes of me living on Iona, and it certainly makes me count my blessings. But even in a built up area, on a brief exercise outing there will be something of nature to marvel at; cheeky dandelions growing through cracks in the pavements and walls, starlings (often overlooked or seen as a nuisance) with their comical walk, valiant attempts to imitate sounds, including the dawn chorus of a song thrush (not very successfully) and their beautiful iridescent feathers. Sunrise and sunset, the waxing and waning of the moon…

In a world where nothing is certain, we can look to nature and feel a sense of stability, predictability, and survival, and perhaps this may help us to, as Peter, one of Jesus’s closest friends urges, ‘Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you.’ 1 Peter 5: 7

Reverend Joyce Watson, Isle of Iona