Brothers and Sisters. From the time Adam and Eve were exiled from Paradise, humankind has mourned its lost relationship with the natural world.
Adam took a fall for us all. Never again would he or Eve or any of the billions of humans who followed them walk the Earth without sin against God, against one another, and against nature.
Adam’s fall corrupted nature. Adam’s fall corrupted human nature. Adam’s fall was the hiker’s fall.
Hikers fall. Rarely. Frequently. Softly. Seriously. All hikers eventually fall. And just as we fall when we are hiking in nature, we fall and we fall short in our care of nature.
Listen now to the cry of Creation.
Today we are more disconnected from nature than ever before. We chop down the great trees of the world—in the cold forests of the north, in the tropical rainforests, and in the woods near our homes. We foul streams and rivers, lakes and oceans. Every day another species of plant or animal is lost from earth for all time.
We want more than we need, and take more than we need from nature. We fail to moderate our desire for material things, which causes us to view nature as a commodity and merely as a collection of resources to be used as food and fuel. We refuse to acknowledge nature is more than the sum of its resources.
To reconnect with nature, reconnect with God, and remember that it’s you, not another, that is the cause of the despoiling of nature. The hiker’s contribution to halting the abuse of nature is for each of us individually to correct ourselves.
Do not seek more control over the holy forests, the holy mountains, or the holy waters. Do not seek more control over other people.
Instead, control yourself. Learn from the monks: Take personal responsibility for your own thoughts and actions toward nature. Avoid blaming others for the abuse of nature, and do not hide behind broad excuses about corrupt politics, a perverted economy, and immoral humanity.
Begin the restoration of nature by restoring yourself. One fitting time for self-reflection is during Great Lent, which should be a period of repentance and reduced commercial activity. But no need to wait for Lent; bring a little bit of Lent on each hike. Give up blame. Set aside anger. Give thanks for God’s many blessings, for friends and family, and for the natural world around you.
Make nature the stuff of your prayers. Bring the tall mountain, roaring river, and singing bird into the sanctuary of your heart. An appreciation of the beauty and power of nature adds to appreciation of our Lord. When we are right with God, we will do right for nature.
Hike as children of light. Leave ego and arrogance at the trailhead and you shall see and hear nature in all its glory. In nature, find refuge from cities full of idols. In nature, find yourself. In nature, find the Holy Spirit or allow the Holy Spirit to find a way into your heart.
Blessed be the one who loves to hike and blessed be the one who hikes to love.
Remember the words from the Holy Mountain of St. Silvan the Athonite: “The heart that has learned to love, has pity for all creation.”
Love the red dawns, golden sunsets, and sky of many colors.
Love the still waters, burbling streams, and thundering waterfalls.
Love the ancient oaks, the cedars, and the palms.
Love the sandy beach, rocky shore, and tide pools.
Love the desert dunes, slot canyons, and badlands.
Love the lupine, the lilies, and the daffodils.
Love every day of God’s light. Love everything in nature, and you shall discover the heavenly mystery in all living things. And once you have discovered it, you will come to feel it more and more, as you hike mile after mile, and with each passing day and week and year of your life.