Science of Joy I: God’s Art

This is the season of anticipation of joy. For the next four weeks, I would like to explore the possibility of abundance and joy as appropriate for our human experience. Even as our hemisphere endures the coming of our darkest hours and the austerity of winter’s demands, we can rely upon the bounty of our harvests just celebrated and prepare for spring. We can celebrate our blessings and rely upon hope.

What does Our Creator teach us about joy through His art of Nature?

Last summer I walked the trails of Florence County land with my new camera. High in the sky above the sugar maples I spotted a raven and decided to experiment with the automatic focus and fast-frame shooting on a setting for motion. To my surprise, I was able to catch the bird in flight with a few shots. Here is one picture blown up several times.

Diving Raven

Only when I looked at the enlarged photos did I realize what this bird was doing. He or she was playing. Ravens are not predators hunting by diving. They do not snatch prey from the air as falcons do. For some reason that sure looks like sheer joy, this probably young bird was flying aerobatics, soaring high and tumbling into a dive, then pulling up, again. We can learn a lot from ravens. Do we still play? Do we live our joy?

Puppies play—and coyotes, foxes, wolves, bears, cougars, otters. When is the last time we enjoyed watching them play?

Deer are curious. Several years ago, I cut many aspen saplings to clear an area, so I dragged them down by the edge of the open stream valley to make a hunting blind. I watched one doe walking across the valley on a trail in front of the blind. She took notice of my work and turned off her course, stepping right over my saplings and into the blind. For several moments, she looked around, smelling, as if to ponder the question about what this thing might be. Are we still curious? Do we wonder? Or, even notice something new?

Enjoyment might be simpler than this. One of the exercises I offered to students in Solar Starship was a quiet sit in Nature. Go to some natural place where you can enjoy peace and solitude. Walk into the area as slowly and quietly as you can. Sit, preferably right on the ground or log for half an hour or more—until time no longer matters. Clear your mind and simply observe God’s art. Walk back from your sit area taking at least twice as long as walking in. Write your reactions, especially how you feel.

Many students did this, and the reports they shared with me confirm that most enjoyed it. If you have never tried such a thing, give yourself a gift this season. If you have experienced this but it has been too long, give yourself a gift. You don’t need wilderness. Even your own back yard may suffice, but I prefer more animals and fewer people to observe. Animals seem to enjoy life more.

Observe the plants, the rocks and water, even the air. Feel a part of it. Be a part of it. Then, come back here and post your comments for others to share. I will give myself a gift and post my comment tomorrow.

Enjoy.

3 responses to “Science of Joy I: God’s Art

  1. Is motorcycle riding ‘play’? I think it is for me…

    I have observed lots of animals ‘playing’. Even mature animals (I think the young of most animals and birds ‘play’). Penguins and otters come to mind right away. I guess I am one of the ‘outsiders’ in society, that I prefer the solitude and nature. Perhaps a better assignment for me would be to sit in a street side park….

  2. Christine Howard

    I agree that there is a lot of joy in nature. Perhaps that is why my garden is called Joy garden. Sometimes just the soft colors of a pansy or the scolding by the humingbird that have made their home in my garden fill me with joy. However as well as nature nothing fills me with more joy than the laugh of a child.

    • Thanks, Chris. I promised to do a sit and report back, today. I didn’t do it in the wilderness or even my own back yard. I did it in my living room and inside my own mind. I watched a deer and a wolf in the North Woods that lives inside me. When I came back, I noticed how lovely my living room is, especially the Terrell Knack wildlife prints on the wall: loons on an autumn late summer lake, and a whitetail buck in the snowy woods. Joy does not need to be difficult, distant, or expensive. I can do this anytime, anywhere, and for free.

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