Have you ever noticed that the tops of the trees sway wildly when it's windy?
I took the boys to one of our new favorite spots in Atlanta, a walking trail with a lake and two picnic tables where we sit and read, where we thread fallen leaves onto pine needles and make habitats with sticks and dirt.
Last week, my oldest found an arrowhead there, and so it is, in many ways, sacred space to us. It is our getaway right outside the city.
We've been watching the new Magic Schoolbus series, and there is an episode about architecture and the Big Bad Wolf—they are trying to design the perfect house for the Three Little Pigs that won't get blown down. When the kids and their teacher realize that the trees are the answer to their problems—that their rooted trunks do not easily break in the wind—they apply the circular tree design to their house for the Three Little Pigs play, and it is a success.
You see, they discovered that the way the trees were grounded during the storm was the answer. Most of the trees were steady and safe, despite harsh winds.
These days are full of acute, concentrated heaviness. We mourn and long, we hope and despair, constantly and all at once. That is, of course, the human condition, but it is exhausting, and it often leaves us feeling listless and unsettled.
And so, we have to find rootedness. We have to be grounded in something.
And if you're a Christian like I am, the American church doesn't feel like the safest place right now.
As a Native American woman, the church isn't always the best place for me to find God. Because I've realized that the church is also out there. It is in the wilderness where I am grounded.
A few days ago when I took my boys back to our favorite spot and watched the trees quietly sway, I listened. I listened as acorns fell from the heights above us. I lay on the bench of the picnic table, once again in awe of a created world that I get to belong to, tend to, learn from. I felt rooted again.
It was in a similar place that I was brought back to my identity as a Potawatomi woman a few years ago, on a walking trail. In that moment, when God reminded me of who I am, opened up my world, and lifted a veil that had been covering my eyes, I saw everything clearly, and I found that even though my journey is difficult, its beauty outweighs its heaviness, and it brings me to a rootedness that I've never had before in my life.
The answers have always been outside, whether we notice or not. They are in the trees and the dirt beneath my feet. Somehow, the wilderness allows us to ask questions of life, of God, of ourselves, of each other, and whether we find the answers we're looking for, what grounds us to this earth and to this journey is that we belong. We are held steady in the chaos, rooted even though things are broken.
And the wilderness does not discriminate. The trees do not look at me differently than they look at you. The lake lets you see your reflection on her face, and the ducks still float by gracefully. The acorns still fall from the trees, the squirrels still bury their winter food in the dirt, and the bees still search for honey and sting anyone who gets in their way.
But when we become a part of that, when we get to sit in the company of a created world, we see ourselves.
We remember that we are small, created things, made to belong, to be interconnected, and that is the grandest mystery, isn't it?
That in itself is all I need, and it's all you need, if only for a moment of re-charging and remembering.
So when the brokenness of the world makes you tired, run to the forest.
Remember how small you are.
Watch the leaves change.
Listen to acorns fall from the heights.
Let the wind and the water talk to you about what it means to heal.
Let The Creator show you the benevolent, secret places.
And root yourselves again. Dig your heels into the dirt and remember that it is okay to long for wholeness, and it is better to seek it out where it can be found.
It is better to seek and find that we are, indeed, grounded, than to never look or ask and feel like we've wandered our whole lives and never landed.
So let the wildernesses—the rolling hills, the forests and the lakes, the rivers and the rocks, be your guide. Let them bring you back to yourself, to that still, small voice that has always called us rooted in an often uprooted world.
Kaitlin Curtice is a Native American Christian author, speaker and worship leader. As an enrolled member of the Potawatomi Citizen Band and someone who has grown up in the Christian faith, Kaitlin writes on the intersection of Native American spirituality, mystic faith in everyday life, and the church. She is an author with Paraclete Press and her recently released book is Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places. She is a contributor to Sojourners, and you can also find her work on Patheos Progressive Christian.
This work first appeared on Kaitlin's website.
Check out On Finding the Birds.
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