Nature, Singing

Tucked between red-clad Santas and decorated evergreens, this very late rain lily (Zephyranthes candida) bloomed in the San Bernard refuge butterfly garden long after many of its kind had called it a season.

Graced with the colors of Christmas and petals suggesting the open receptiveness of a child, it recalls the words of the beloved carol:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare him room
and heaven and nature sing…

Remarkably, we don’t sing, “Joy to human beings, joy to those who walk upright and drive cars and open too many credit card accounts and are nasty to their neighbors.” We don’t sing “Joy to the church-goers, the faithful, the few.”

The joy we sing is meant for the whole world: for stars and dirt; mountains and seas; trees, rocks, valleys and hills, and every creature inhabiting them. At Christmas, heaven and nature sing out this truth: the gifts of the season are meant for the world as a whole. We who inhabit that world, who trace a path upon its soil and gaze upon its stars are called to sing its praises, too, and join in its celebration.


Comments always are welcome.

50 thoughts on “Nature, Singing

    1. Given your love of the natural world, I’m not surprised you found something here to appreciate. Have you ever read any of Joseph Sittler? He was a theologian at the University of Chicago, and his book, The Care of the Earth is as relevant as ever. I think you’d enjoy it; it was published in the 60s, and anticipated some of today’s most pressing issues.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours — it’s hard to believe we’re nearly to another new year.

  1. I am very happy that you point out, Linda, that we are rejoicing in all of nature, every blade of grass, every speck of dust, every slime mould, every snake, scorpion and spider. All of it. All of the wonderful fabric of life on earth, which are systematically dismantling, degrading and destroying. I was saddened to read that the Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona is now under threat. Can no one put an end to this madness?

    1. In his documentary on the national parks, Ken Burns used an instrumental version of a hymn I learned in grade school. Called “This is My Father’s World,” it captures both the inherent wonder of the natural world and the beauty of human response to it. You can see the lyrics here. I suppose some would call it schmaltzy, but I still like the way it seems to embrace all of creation. It didn’t mention the spiders and scorpions directly, but they clearly were there, and we began learning acceptance as we sang.

  2. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a rain lily in December. You’re ahead of me in that, but we’re ahead of you in the Philippines, where our hotel is already holding a Christmas Eve mass (which began at 10 PM).

    1. And now it’s 11:30 a.m. for you, give or take, and no doubt Christmas is in full swing. Thank goodness for the world clock app on my iPad. I know the time differences for Wales, London, and Monrovia, but farther east requires a little help.

      It’s still a tie between the asters and the camphor daisies at the Brazoria refuge. Both are blooming very sparsely, but both are in bloom: the asters where they have some shelter, and the daisies where they have plenty of sun.

        1. Just out of curiosity, I took a look at FlightAware and was surprised to see 19 flights from Taoyuan Int’l to SFO — I hope you weren’t booked on the United flight that was cancelled! Safe travels!

            1. Despite its trials and tribulations, technology has opened up everyday possibilities we would have laughed at as impossibly fantastic in 1950s films.

  3. How fortunate to catch this rain lily when it’s beginning to bloom, and you have a good eye because they are not very big flowers.

    You said, “The joy we sing is meant for the whole world: for stars and dirt; mountains and seas; trees, rocks, valleys and hills, and every creature inhabiting them. At Christmas, heaven and nature sing out this truth: the gifts of the season are meant for the world as a whole. We who inhabit that world, who trace a path upon its soil and gaze upon its stars are called to sing its praises, too, and join in its celebration.” You have the same view I have. I tend to think more of nature always, rather than all the things one has managed buy with money. You post about ‘Riu, Riu Chiu”’ exemplified this feeling also. The sound of birds are sign that nature is always there behind all the consumerism and materialism in the world.

    1. At this time of year, it’s easier to spot anything that’s in bloom. The grays, browns, and taupes of late fall are beginning to take over, so any bit of color is more obvious.

      Money’s quite useful in a multitude of ways, particularly for basics like food, shelter, and clothing. And of course we couldn’t get to work or travel for pleasure without money to buy gas and such. But the over-commercialization of Christmas, and the measuring of affection by the cost of a gift is pure silliness. What’s certain is that nature’s always willing to offer a gift, and all it costs is our attention.

  4. Lovely thoughts, Linda, and so true. Everybody seems to think their way of celebrating this season is the “right” way, when nature offers forth its glory every day and in every season. Happy Christmas to you!

    1. All that’s needed is a glance at holiday tables around the world to see what a rich variety of customs and foods help to create a festive atmosphere for people. I’m sure many people would think pickled herring is an odd choice for a ‘must have’ at Christmas, but for me, the unofficial start of the Christmas season is the day I’m overcome by a desire for pickled herring in wine sauce, and start looking for it in the stores.

      As for nature, there’s no need for post-Christmas depression where she’s involved. Once the trees are gone and the wrapping paper’s disposed of, nature still will be there, with gifts galore.

    1. A very Merry Christmas to you and Mary, Pit — and greetings to all of your creatures, too: both wild and not-quite-so-wild! I’m cat-sitting for friends this Christmas; I’m hoping the kitty will come out of the closet today to open her presents!

  5. Merry Xmas, Linda! I’m back in NY for a few days, and walking in the hemlock woods, which always brings me joy. Thanks for a year of thoughtful and very enjoyable posts and photos, Robbie.

    1. Enjoy your time in the woods, and enjoy your time with family. I think I’ve only seen hemlocks in my imagination (“the murmuring pines and the hemlocks”) so I’m hoping there may be a photo or two! Merry Christmas!

    1. I wonder if Santa made a jump with the paratroopers this year? I hope so — somehow, somewhere! Merry Christmas, GP. Thanks for reminding us, year after year, of those who have to celebrate so far from home.

    1. And a Merry Christmas to you, Gary. No snow this year, but I’ve discovered a flurry of squirrels living in the trees outside my place. That’s almost as good, because they won’t melt!

    1. I wasn’t aware of any scent, but when I’m around our native flowers, I usually don’t notice it unless there are a good number of them. Wisteria, jasmine, and such are different, of course. And lilacs. I’d love to be able to grow them here, just for the scent. I’d trade every nursery-bred poinsettia and Christmas cactus for some lilacs.

      I thought of you yesterday when I came across a roadside pinata vendor. Are pinatas part of celebrations there? I’m sure you’re finding ways to celebrate in either case — Feliz Navidad!

    1. It was a lovely find, indeed. There were a few others scattered around, but weather and insects had left them a bit bedraggled. It was quite a gift to find this one. Merry Christmas, indeed!

    1. William Blake managed to capture so many of our Christmas experiences (or life experiences, for all that) in a few poetic words:

      Joy and woe are woven fine,
      A clothing for the soul divine.
      Under every grief and pine
      Runs a joy with silken twine.

      A happy Christmas to you, Gerard, with happy memories of Christmas past, and hopes for Christmases future.

    1. And to you and yours, Misti. I started my morning with a squirrel running straight up to me, sitting up on its haunches, and staring. Someone around here’s been feeding squirrels. Of course I came back in, got a couple of shelled pecans, and gave them to him. May your Christmas be just as merry as my new friend’s!

  6. You express lovely sentiments about the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living beings on this special planet, Linda. When we ignore those facts, it is to the detriment of all life.

    The song of this seasonally-clad lily brings cheer to the heart. I hope you are enjoying a cheerful Christmas.

    Warm wishes,

    1. I certainly am. I’ve been to a lovely service, cared for the kitty who’s my temporary responsibility, am watching my all-time favorite movie (A Christmas Story) and as soon as I’ve finished my coffee and commenting am heading out to — somewhere, with camera. I hope the holiday’s a lovely one for you and yours, as well.

    1. The lily always has been a symbol of the annunciation, but I thought it worked well for Christmas, too. The colors are “right,” of course, but the simplicity seemed especially apt. I’m glad you’re fond of it, Yvonne, and I certainly hope your Christmas is peaceful and joyous.

  7. This is a wonderful message that needs heeding. If one is to believe in a creator, then it behooves that person to cherish the gift of our planet and all that it is home to in reverence to the creator. And if one does not follow the philosophy of a creator, then all the more reason to show respect and love for the home we inhabit as it bears explanation for our existence.
    Your rain lily is a flower of singular beauty and how fortunate to find it after all others have faded. Merry Christmas, Linda.

    1. One of the nice things about following the liturgical calendar is that the Christmas season stretches all the way to Epiphany: the traditional twelve days of Christmas. I love it — it means that greetings and gifts aren’t late for almost two more weeks. How that’s for a handy rationalization? But I did notice today there were more than the usual number of people still greeting one another with ‘Merry Christmas’ — it was nice.

      I’m glad you appreciated the message. At heart, that’s pure Luther, filtered through my experience. Of all the people in history I’d love to sit down and have a beer with, he’s at the top of the list. He was very much a both/and sort of guy; that’s especially appealing today, when either/or is running amok.
      Anyway. As I said to someone this morning, Christmas may be over, but the world’s still filled with gifts. It would be foolish not to accept and treasure them.

    1. Thanks, Jeanie. All of us inhabit slightly different ‘worlds,’ but each of them is worthy of a song of praise, no matter how difficult our circumstances or complicated our struggles. The ability of the natural world to soothe us in the midst of difficulties is a God-given reality, and it’s a great season to celebrate that fact!

    1. Thank you, Jason. And a Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you and yours ~ it’s been good to put aside other concerns for a time, and enjoy the festivities.

    1. I think this, from Flannery O’Connor, applies equally well to photographers — or just people, for that matter: “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.'”

      I was going to post the stem, and the decided to add the full flower, just so people could figure out what they were looking at. I like abstraction, but a little grounding never hurts.

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