The Guideposts senior editor shares his thoughts on why God is always in nature.
We were cooped up. Winter cold outside, two young kids inside. We groused, missing the outdoor life we left behind long ago in California. It’s January in New York City. Everything’s brown, gray and dirty. And it was raining.
So we made a plan. Monday morning, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we rousted ourselves early and got the kids up. “We’re going for a walk,” we told Frances, our three-year-old. We told Benjamin, too, but he fell asleep the moment he landed in the front carrier. He’s three months.
Out the door at 8:30. The rain had stopped a few hours before. Raggedy clouds draped over Queens, slouching toward the Atlantic. Pockets of wide-eyed blue peeked from the west. The air smelled fresh, like turned-up earth and wet stone. The city was quiet.
We walked to Central Park. It was gray and brown, but here’s the crux of the matter. Kate and I run in this park nearly every morning. I could run it with eyes closed and never hit a tree. And when we’re feeling smug we like to complain that its manicured lawns and engineered waterfalls are no substitute for wilderness.
This morning, though, it was incomparably beautiful. The sun, burning through a veil of cloud, struck at a low angle, illuminating every blade of dead winter grass with fairy light. Water drops made a universe of pearly stars. Wet, black boughs stretched and spindled.
“When the leaves are gone you really see the trees,” Kate said. Frances found an immense stick and ran it through puddles. We compared a low hill called Summit Rock to a towering mountain that had made an appearance in Frances’ bedtime story the night before. “We’re mountain climbers,” Frances said. She took stomping steps.
We found a short unpaved trail and Frances ran down it. We passed the park maintenance yard and watched rain remnants drip from rusty tractors. We found hoof prints on the bridle path. By the time we reached 72nd Street we were warm and flushed and muddy-footed, full to the brim with outdoors.
We walked out of the park and into the waking city. Taxis, horn honks, garbage trucks, dog walkers. Then to Fairway, our grocery store, which, improbably, has a café upstairs with one of New York’s best breakfasts. We ate waffles and eggs and toast with butter and strawberry jam. Frances had maple syrup and jam on her waffle. We ordered extra toast, it was that good. Kate and I smiled at each other, drinking our coffee. The sun streamed through floor-to-ceiling windows.
God is never cooped up. And neither, I think, is New York. Just our hearts had gotten that way. A morning walk, a delicious breakfast, openness to the world around us. We felt like that sky we’d seen, clouds breaking, sun lancing through to give each dead blade of grass its share of new life.
Jim Hinch is a senior editor at GUIDEPOSTS. Reach him at [email protected].