As one whose faith in God rests foundationally in relationship with the earth and all living beings, the coming of spring is a significant part of the Lenten season. Winter in southern Ohio challenges me, the brown of the trees and ground, and gray of the sky and rock and river create a stark landscape, seemingly stripped of all color and beauty.
I have turned to beholding, seeing with attention for an extended period of time, to move through what superficially appears and feels like endless dreariness. As a being seeking God, holding the earth around me and giving it significance is an essential element of my wintertime existence. I find myself focusing on specific details, as my poetry fragments attest.
feathery tree silhouettes,
a bouquet of leafless forest
flank a russet hillside alight in a setting sun
glistens like tinsel
in the winter sun
This approach of beholding, appreciating, and praising in the bleak of winter gives us strength year round to engage in the slow work of social and environmental justice, knowing deep within what we are protecting: the innate loveliness of the world. It also better equips us to localize some of our work, acting on a scale at once more intimate and reconcilable to change. Beholding in the Lenten season, as the world turns green and colorful, becomes an act of exuberant celebration.
- What are the details in your life, in the life around you that might benefit from more attention?
- What particularly saving power of God do you need in this Lenten season?
Kathleen R. Smythe teaches history and sustainability and directs the Land, Farming and Community degree at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.