Listening to the Trees

In spite of an early childhood living in a brick row house in a lower-class Baltimore neighborhood where life was filled with bus stops and crowded streets, I have always had a connection with nature. There were acres of woods nearby, long since cleared for shopping centers and a hospital. There, we ran, played, imagined, and climbed. There, on my own, I hunted snakes, toads, frogs, and salamanders that filled terrariums in my room.

I knew of no other children who had research scientist parents. From their labs, they brought home dissecting trays and instruments that I employed to study the inner workings of worms and amphibians. Employing a butterfly net at my grandmother’s house in a small town on the eastern shore of Maryland, I collected and mounted winged creatures and got not a few wasp stings. 

Avid birdwatchers and amateur historians, weekends were filled with trips to nature preserves, bird sanctuaries, and historic sites. When my father, a biological oceanographer, started teaching marine ecology at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory on Cape Cod, snorkeling expeditions, salt marsh and tidepool explorations filled those parts of the days when I wasn’t sailing with an old salt who once sailed the mail to the Elizabeth Islands in his catboat. 

All of that naturally carried into adulthood. We have lived all over – exploring Minnesota’s lakes and farmlands, the Colorado Rockies, the San Bernardino Mountains, Maui, and the shores of New England. 

Now that I’ve lived three score and ten, I am beginning to learn a deeper lesson. I am learning not only to observe, study, appreciate, and care for nature, but also to listen to her.

A physician can learn a great deal about a person by probing and testing. A spiritual director can know much more about that same person by deeply listening. So it is with the natural world, the cosmos, all of creation. I learn by observing and studying, by probing and questioning. 

I learn much more by listening. Like the Native people who were here long before my ancestors, I am learning that I am a part of nature. I am learning to sit under the massive oak and ask permission to enter her forest; to ask mother sea for permission to explore her edges; to stop and ask the honeybee for wisdom. Nature talks to us if we have ears to hear.

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on January 29, 2023, in Christianity. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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