Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ring Lake Ranch

I mentioned Ring Lake Ranch in my last post in association with Earth Day because it was at Ring Lake Ranch that I met Belden Lane, who is one of the best writers and storytellers I know. His topic of research and writing for the past decade or so has been the geographic context of spirituality. This same topic has caught my imagination ever since I was a teenager, when I first remember thinking, "I wonder if our scriptures would be the same if they had originated in a temperate/forest kind of climate (like mine in Arkansas) rather than a desert/Mediteranean kind of climate?" How much of Judeo-Christian religion is due to the landscape that birthed it? Belden Lane helped delve into these kinds of questions and much more at a seminar hosted by Ring Lake Ranch, and the setting (picutred above) and the experience were emblazoned on the "desktop" of my soul from then on.
While I was there, I did quite a bit of hiking and horseback riding and thinking and writing. The context really spurs on the creative spirit. One day when I was hiking around some hills that had been pushed up by a glacier moving down the valley millions of years ago, I felt a kind of "tap" on my shoulder, and when I turned around, the barren tree had sprung to life with the foliage of a bright white cloud. The story of St. Francis standing in front of a tree in the wintertime and inviting it to "Tell me of God!" came to mind. In the story, the tree springs to life with foliage and fruit. In my own experience, the harmonization of the tree and the sky combined to bring about another miracle of revelation, and I had the camera around my neck, so I captured the moment on film. To me, the revelation is that the world works in concert in ways that we infrequently recognize or pay attention to, but sometimes the moment just slaps us in the face like a Zen master. That's why I chose that photo to use as the header for my blog. I am most interested in the moments in which I/we sometimes catch a glimpse of the harmony that I believe is Divine. This happens for me when I am attentive to the outdoors, but it also happens when I am attentive to the relationships that fill my life and the creativity of the human spirit.
Perhaps God does mold our minds and cultures with context and environment to receive particular glimpses of the Truth. Or, perhaps our location in life bleeds into our creation of characteristics that we ascribe to God. Either way, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning said

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
Oh, by the way, I noticed Belden Lane is coming back to Ring Lake Ranch this Aug. 2-8. That's right over my birthday. Well, how about that! You should really consider going. Oh yeah, and if you ever read the journal Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology , keep an eye out for the book review I wrote for the paperback edition of Belden Lane's book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. I just got a request to send in a consent to publish, so I suppose it's coming out soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment