I drove an hour early this morning to ask someone to smear dirt on my forehead. I didn’t grow up with the tradition or observance of Ash Wednesday; but since it has found me, Ash Wednesday has quickly become my most favorite of Christian holidays. Here is why:
- It reminds me of how finite, fragile, and fallible life is, which motivates me to work toward living a life of intention and mindfullness.
- It connects me to those who have died; those who have become dust again.
- It proclaims the rhetorical and real derivation of humanity (Hebrew: adam) from dirt, ashes or earth (Hebrew: adamah). The interconnectedness of humanity and the rest of creation is more palpable in the Ash Wednesday service than any other during the year and practically screams at us the importance of being in communion with, serving and guarding our human and non-human neighbors.
We’re really good at this last one at Camp Stevens. Right now there are ten students here from an Episcopal school in Compton. They are playing in the snow, hiking, and learning about their natural environment. Tomorrow night they’ll be cooking their dinner over a campfire. These kids, many of them for the first time, are getting to experience nature-dirt-adamah first-hand and, in turn, are learning about themselves and each other. What a gift!
Last week I was lucky enough to catch that Richard Louv was speaking locally and I jumped at the opportunity to hear him. During his talk he pointed out a couple of particularly interesting and relevant things. First, he argues, “all spirituality begins with a sense of wonder” and that, as children, this wonder often begins in the natural world. He also told story after story of encounters with people of vastly different religious and political backgrounds who all, without exception, were able to drop their differentiating baggage at the door and share life-giving stories of nature experiences during childhood.
Nature experiences, adamah, a connection to creation, wondering. These are things we all have in common. During this Lent season, I’d like to invite you to wonder in nature. To recognize the finite, fallible, and fragile nature of life and to be abundantly thankful for the earthly and human communities of which you are a part. It is a beautiful tension, I think!
And if you’re interested and need something to wonder about, I’ll be doing this Lenton photo-a-day challenge and would love for you to join me!
Whim: “sudden idea.” This weekly post promises a number of things: personal thoughts and reflections, showing off Camp Stevens’ programs and staff, announcements for upcoming opportunities, and answering questions or responding to comments “from the audience.” If you have a topic or question you’d like addressed, just e-mail Beth!