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My Spiritual Experiences in Nature

My fondest memories of growing up in Jamaica are linked to nature. What comes most pleasurably to mind when I think about those times are the Saturday morning adventures into “mango bush” that my cousins and I planned the night before.

We’d get up at dawn, get our baskets and head out for the acres and acres of mango trees of every kind and variety that make up mango bush. We’d get there just as the sun’s rays first penetrated the thick greenery, highlighting the most lush and succulent fruit just waiting for us to pluck them from the tree.

I loved plunging into the dewy leaves under a tree to pick up a mango at the peak of perfection, so recently dropped that the milk still lay liquid on the stem. Other mornings, the plan was to wake up at dawn and collect our pans laden with dirty clothes and walk to the river, this time accompanied by parents and adults. We helped with the washing and laid the clothes out on rocks to bleach, at which point we could take off to frolic in the water.

After school, I often walked down the hill and through Brother Sam’s yard to the “gully” that ran through my village. To me, it was a big river, and I spent many rapt hours watching the fish darting in the water and shrimp scuttering along the bottom.

Audrey in Aspen, Colo.

I had no idea that the exposure that I was getting was vital to my development and to who I would become. I am so grateful, especially as I grow older. Nature imprinted on me in those early years, and I have always sought opportunities to get outdoors.

When I’m inside, I position myself with a view of outside. The constant drama of wildlife enthralls me—the birds flying, interacting with each other; a bright yellow butterfly fluttering by; the occasional hawk overhead sending busy squirrels into the trees. I can’t understand when people say “I’m bored.”

Having seen so much of America’s scenic natural beauty from coast to coast, the grand vistas have literally stamped themselves upon my psyche. I can look at a high rise in Atlanta and instantly recall the granite bulk of Half Dome jutting a mile into the air in Yosemite Valley. Giving a presentation at the Auburn Avenue Research Library recently, I was momentarily distracted from my speech when I thought I saw a hawk flying by—in the heart of  Midtown Atlanta.

Acadia National ParkAs much as my physical sense of space has expanded, I feel my spiritual senses have evolved more. When my husband Frank and I visited our first national park—Acadia in Maine—I felt that I was literally seeing the face of God reflected in His creation. The thought came unbidden, “God made this, and it is so beautiful, I must be beautiful too, since He made me as well.” That thought has never left me, and it has given me the goal of focusing on the beauty in everything and everyone. My mission and goal in life is to “let nothing go out from me but love,” and I believe it is possible because I have seen the harmony that exists in nature.

Human beings cannot exist without nature, yet we have become detached and downright contemptuous of her. Even warnings of impending planetary climate disasters have not persuaded us to become more sensitive to how we affect our biosphere. Simultaneously, scientists document an increasing tendency to distance ourselves from nature, as we retreat inside and depend on technology, interacting with a “virtual” world.  I can’t help but see a cause-and-effect relationship between these two developments.

I often wonder, would I be as passionate about nature and the environment today if it were not for my early conditioning? I can’t know the answer, but I have seen thousands of people, from grandparents to grandchildren and everyone in between, melt under the power of nature in the Everglades, the Grand Canyon, or neighboring Cascade Springs Nature Preserve.  Their cares seem to fall away from them spontaneously, and “wow!” is the word I hear most frequently.

Grand Canyon National ParkRecently, our favorite minister, the Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, called and asked what national park we’d recommend for him to spend a milestone birthday. With no hesitation, we said, “Grand Canyon, South Rim.”

On his birthday he called us from the El Tovar Hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon and said, “As a minister for more than 40 years, I know what it is to have a relationship with God. Being here at the Grand Canyon, I know what it is to be in the Presence of God.”

So there you have it. It’s one thing to read about nature, or watch it on TV. It’s something else entirely to immerse yourself in it, in safety and comfort. I feel now that all my experiences are spiritual. I hope my story will increase your desire to reconnect with Mother Nature and thereby find your own intimate experiences with God.

Audrey Peterman is President of Earthwise Productions, Inc., and co-author with her husband Frank of “Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care."

Acadia and Grand Canyon images courtesy of the National Park Service.

Posted on at 10:19 PM

Tagged: Acadia, Grand Canyon, Outdoors, audrey peterman, camping, diversity and national parks

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Great post Audrey. For me, it's impossible to NOT believe that there is a God who loves us enough to create such a beautiful earth. It's a blessing to be able to go out and hike around and observe all of its intricacies.

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Isn't she lovely, Audrey and Mother Earth!

Kate in the Bike Shop

I had the pleasure of meeting Audrey and let me assure you, this woman is the real deal. She appreciates the finer things in life... we all can learn from her!


Thank you, Evonne, Kate and BC!

Frank and I just got back from a spirited walk to Centennial Olympic Park in our midtown Atlanta neighborhood - an easy and pleasant way to enjoy the outdoors (we saw a Coopers Hawk on the way) catch up on what's happening in our individual worlds and get great exercise!


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