Ecological Thought: Personal Paper on Nature

Personal Paper on Nature


Dave Holmander-Bradford

            The presence I feel of the Creator has always been part of my outdoor experience. From my earliest days spending time traveling to the mountains with my family to walk in the grandeur of trees or to the rocky coast of Maine to feel the sea spray, this sense of presence a constant when in nature. There is a moist, deep, damp air in the woods, which has its own unique fragrance. It is to be compared to the deserts in Southern California which are dry warm and arid; always the same, yet different. Though the particular place changes, the outdoors always seems like home. The challenge to pick a single place in nature or experience is an ominous task. How do you describe home in the outdoors? Is it the smoke from a campfire or driving a tent stake in the ground or standing over a waterfall; that is a part of my natural experience? 

            The year was 1973, and I was just twenty-five years old, a veteran having served during the Vietnam era, having constructed my own stick build house on the coast of Maine, and a student at the White Mountains Seminary in Lancaster, New Hampshire. On a late spring, Sunday immediately after morning service, a small group of us students decided it was the perfect time to hike Mt. Jefferson. The mountainis named after President Jefferson. It is part Presidential Range. I remember the day; it was beautiful and sunny; you could feel the warmth of the spring air in the lower elevations.  However, when we arrived atthe trailhead in Jefferson, New Hampshire by U.S. Route 2, we could see there was still some snow cover. No one blinked an eye, and off we went. The demographics of our hiking party weremixed gender and several older people. By old, I mean they were like 40 years old.

The trail was moist from the winter’s snowfall but marked. The first three or four miles was a gentle grade; however, as we got deeper into the woods, the climb intensified. Our first grand view came when we reached what was known as the lower Jefferson Summit, sometimes called a false summit, because it is what your eye catches. You never see the real summit until you arrive at the lower summitfirst.  The evergreen trees are low, almost like shrubs, with flecks of twigs scattered on the ground. There is a serene beauty, the air is crisp, and we are tracking through a few inches of snow.

Suddenly, one of the older women cries out with a scream. We all rush to her side; she is lying on the ground in excruciating pain. Fortunately, one of the other students had been a medic in the Army. He checks her out and says, you have broken your ankle. Our hiking adventure has ended abruptly. There is an eerie feeling which develops. Others stepped in and take charge; one person says, we must make a litter and carry her down. Someone else volunteered their coat. Others find downed tree branches which become poles. We have perhaps started too late in the day for this climb. Now with the delay of getting organized for the decent, nightfall will soon be upon us.

            In spite of all the confusion, there is a strange manifestation which envelops our space in the woods. It feels like a controlling force is in charge. I liken it to nature, guiding us safely down the mountain. The trek down the mountain will be tenuous, yet no one else slipped or fell. The constant wind which we had felt subsided and the moon came out to guide our path. To our amazement, with perhaps still two miles to go we are met by a group of locals hiking with flashlights heading in our direction. Somehow, they have heard of the injured woman and come to assist. The added help is much appreciated. It is incredible when exiting the woods, to find an ambulance is already waiting to care for our fellow student. You ask is, there something special about this place? Was nature trying to tell me something?

 I answer, yes, I could not see him or her or it. You, my listener, choose your perspective or manifestation of the divine. My interpretation of the moment, as evidenced by the presence I feel. He was there to guide and protect, as often He does, with flickering moonlight and forest depth; because, He, God is everywhere.

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