When I was 21 I began observing the moon. I was well versed in the natural history and geology of my environment, but was woefully ignorant of how the sun and the moon cycles worked. Maybe I was inspired by the clear skies in Southern Oregon or my continuing interest in nature based spirituality. Maybe God was tapping me on the shoulder, pointing her finger at something I needed to see. Whatever it was, I faithfully watched the moon for cycle after cycle that year.
What I found amazed me. I was enthralled by the shapes the moon takes, the patterns on its surface and the relationship between the moon and the sun. As I watched the moon change I found myself watching the seasons change too. I saw the sunset move along the crest of the hills and the angle of light rise and fall with the seasons. I felt how the earth seems to wake up, be full, release its energy and then hibernate as the seasons complete their circle. As I watched, the rhythms of day, month, season and year started to feel familiar as my own heart beat and breathing.
I have felt God's presence in nature for much longer than I have ever felt it anywhere else. I knew the liturgy of growing plants long before I knew any church liturgy and heard God's voice in song birds and streams long before I heard it in a meeting for worship. Today, my primary language for accessing God is still the language of the living earth and especially of the natural rhythms of the sun and the moon. I see all life moving in these cycles at all scales from gardens, creative projects, human lives and even civilizations. The compactness of winter, the shooting growth of spring, the full flowering of summer sliding into the slowing comfort of autumn. Leaning into these cycles, living fully in them and allowing them to unfold seems to me to be the best, highest and closest to God way to live my life.
Our culture seems to be an always on, always up, always growing kind of culture. But do you remember what cells that don't stop growing are called? Cancer. Plants that don't stop growing, like kudzu are choking weeds. I feel deep in my bones that cycles of growth and constriction allow a chance for starting over, for evaluating and for resting. I know God is in all parts of this cycle. I feel her in the pruning and contracting of autumn just as much as in the growth and light of spring. God is even in the hibernation and death of winter. God, my mother, knows and loves me through all parts of the cycle. God, my father, uses the cycle to encourage me to grow and challenge myself. The book of nature and the book of time are, to me, the fullest and most beautiful books God has written to help me navigate my life. And all I have to do is watch.