I recently wrote about our dreams of creating a nature interpretation trail in our two-acre woods by Daniels Run, a small stream that flows through our church property. Last week the chair of or church council and I met with two people from the City of Fairfax government and their Parks and Recreation Department. We walked through our woods to show them what we’re planning. Thy were enthusiastic and had helpful suggestions, including where to get free woodchips for the trail and contact information for a Boy Scout troop that might be interested in helping us.
I love this public-private collaboration in caring for our small part of the ecosystem in a major metropolitan area. Daniels Run is a lazy little stream that eventually finds its way into the Potomac River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. The combined health of little streams like Daniels Run affects the health of our whole watershed. This in turn affects efforts to restore the ecologically threatened Chesapeake Bay. Helping restore Daniels Run into a happy little stream is one small part of that larger project.
I reflect on Ched Myers’s presentation, From “Creation Care” to “Watershed Discipleship”: An Anabaptist Approach to Ecological Theology and Practice, at the recent American Academy of Religion meeting in Baltimore. Ched told us that working collaboratively to restore and protect the ecology of the watershed in which we live is an important dimension of discipleship. Such ecological stewardship is multifaceted, including ecological, social, and spiritual dimensions?
We tend to be ignorant of our natural world. The nature trail through our woods can be a way for us and our neighbors to recognize and be mindful of the natural processes related to the trees, vegetation, insects, and animals that live in our woods. We humans are part of that web of life.
Environmentalist John Wennersten, in his provocative book Anacostia: The Death and Life of an American River, has given us a rare insight into the interplay between the ecological, social, and spiritual dimensions of the life of a river. Much of his book is about the Anacostia River watershed in the Washington DC area but it also fits the Potomac River watershed.
Wennersten writes, “This is a river story of colonial and federal power that involves a people still waiting on political and environmental redemption. . . Rivers provide a sense of place that shapes a city’s social and economic life” (xi). Part of our redemption necessarily includes getting in touch with the story of how tobacco plantations, slavery, racial politics, industry, war, and urban sprawl have degraded our social and natural environment.
Finally, my prayer is that the nature trail through our two-acre woods will provide a quiet space for spiritual reflection and rejuvenation. I think of these words by the farmer-poet Wendell Berry:
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.