Last week Gina and I had the opportunity to spend a few days camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area – also known as the BWCA. It’s a beautiful, pristine area of wilderness between the border between the United States and Canada, located in the state of Minnesota. We went there to spend some time together on the occasion of our fifth anniversary. During the four days we were “in the wilderness” we saw only two or three other groups of campers. We had a chance to paddle our canoe, hike, view wildlife, catch and eat fresh fish for dinner each day, and to be in a place of wild beauty. No phones, computers, email, or, for that matter, anything other than our camping gear, a couple of books, our journals and, of course, each other.
We experienced God’s presence as we reflected with joy, wonder and gratitude on five years of marriage. We sensed our Divine Creator in the beauty of nature- a wolf, bald eagles, loons, numerous beavers busy at work, sea gulls, deer and, of course, a variety of insects, all graced our time in the woods. The sky at night, when unimpeded by street lights, is amazing to behold – the sheer immensity of the sky and the countless stars… is amazing. We drank water out of a lake that has not seen a motor boat. We sat by a fire and marveled at the beauty, light and warmth it gave.
I was so aware of the handiwork of God all around me – in nature, in our marriage and the gift of our love, and in the beauty of creation. It all led me to giving thanks and praise. St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun came to mind – thanking God for, in the words of that holy man, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Fire, the rain, the wind, etc. etc. “ He is right – it all can point, in one way or another, to the goodness and glory of God.
John Locke, a very rational empirical thinker of the 17th Century, and about as far from St. Francis as one can get in terms of philosophy and theology, wrote: “The visible marks of extraordinary wisdom and power appear so plainly in all the words of the creation that a rational creature, who will but seriously reflection on them, cannot miss the discovery of a Deity.”
This was our experience during the past week. Let’s give thanks for wild places – be they in the wilderness, in our parks and area forests, or in the places in our own backyards where we can encounter the mystery of creation. Let’s be aware, too, of God’s gift of love and the ways we experience that gift in our own lives – love, too, is part of God’s wonderful created order.