Living in Harmony with Nature

Living in harmony with nature is certainly an admirable goal for humankind. We haven’t done too well so far, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. We can certainly enjoy nature, and learn to live in harmony with it.

I am not talking about going “off the grid” and living in a small cabin in the wilderness. I enjoy the comforts that technological advances provide! The point is, how are we to harmonize these comforts that we human beings have developed through our creative abilities without damaging the natural world.

I believe that ideal world involves human creativity used in harmony with the natural environment that God created. That sentiment is found in this quote I read recently:

God gave this environment to humanity. It is His will that we use the environment to obtain food, to have it in abundance, and to experience the joy of living in the beauty of nature

Sun Myung Moon, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen, 2010, p.311

So, the natural environment is God’s gift to us, and we should use it wisely. If we do so, we will have food (and other needs) in abundance, and be able to enjoy its natural beauty.

I certainly enjoy the beauty of nature and am fortunate to live in a beautiful rural area. As the fall drew to a close this year, I was still enjoying flowers blooming in my back yard. It had been quite a challenging summer – lots of hot and humid days, not good for me to do anything physical in the yard! And these were interspersed with storms of pouring rain. Again, not the best for yardwork. I could see the weeds thriving, so I took several opportunities to go out and pull armfuls of weeds out of the ground and add them to my compost pile. But I didn’t really tend to my flowers, so in the fall I was amazed to see how many flowers were really flourishing!

I had seen the groundhog who lives under our shed moving from eating dandelions in our lawn (no argument from me there) to munching on my flowers. Interestingly, he (or she) tried to eat the begonias and clearly did not enjoy them. He didn’t try a second time, and the begonias recovered and blossomed more than before!

I also grow tomato plants and a few herbs, which are the only edible things I seem to be able to protect from the wildlife I discovered that the groundhogs don’t like basil – one year I had a bunch of new plants sitting waiting to be planted and, in the morning, I found devastation of the parsley and some flowers, but there were basil leaves strewn all around. It was a seriously unappreciated snack! And now I grow basil successfully beside my tomatoes (but keep the parsley inside!).

The flowers that really surprised me this year were the marigolds and zinnias. They were much bigger and taller than I had ever seen. One marigold plant grew about 2 feet tall and almost as wide, a veritable bush! I was so impressed I took its photo.

My marigold “bush”!

Then, the zinnias grew even taller and produced multitudes of flowers. I filled my vase numerous times over the summer. Finally, as the nights threatened to go below freezing, I saw they were all still blooming. Each day I went out to admire the colors and different styles of flowers, but began to worry about how much longer they would survive. But each day there were still bees on the flowers, so I left them. Finally, the day arrived when I was sure it would freeze that night and I went out to look at the flowers. There were no bees! I called my husband and told him we must pick the flowers before the frost. So we did, and sure enough the frost came that night and killed any plants that were left. But I had a beautiful bouquet in my vase that stayed safe and gave me joy for many more days.

Zinnias saved from the frost

So, I my success with these flowers involved a combination of studying the weather forecast and the bees. The flowers had a dual purpose – one was to serve the bees, and the other was to bring me joy, and they fulfilled both for the longest possible time. Surely that was a good way to live in harmony with nature.

Of course, harmony is more than just sharing the bounty of the plants with the creatures. Sometimes we actively offer food to wildlife. In fact, I have a squirrel who often appears, waiting for his breakfast in the mornings. When I go outside with some pieces of apple or other fruit or nuts, or just stale bread, he is not afraid but waits for me to throw them in his direction. Then he grabs a good piece and scampers up the tree to eat it. Soon after, a couple of others will arrive and join the feast. I think they watch from the hedge to see if I bring something tasty! Here he is hoping I will give him a nice snack; and one of the others snacking happily!

I also enjoy harmony with nature more vicariously, through social media. There are various people who post photos, videos, and accounts of how they enjoy and care for wildlife in their back yards. Foxes are beautiful creatures, who have suffered a lot of hunting in the UK, but there are people who post wonderful images of them visiting their back yards. These people feed the foxes appropriate food, even adding medications when they see them suffering from treatable problems such as mange, and offer a safe haven for them to play with their young. Others provide a safe place and food for badgers (not the dangerous honey badgers but the kind with the black and white striped face, like “Mr. Badger” in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame). These people, at least the ones I follow, recognize that they are dealing with wildlife who happened to venture onto their property, and make no effort to tame them, which would put them at risk from other humans. Filming them from a carefully constructed hide, or from inside the house, allows them (and others like me) to enjoy these creatures living in nature and in harmony with human beings.

Finally, I want to mention that there is a lot we can learn from nature. We are in awe of how even the smallest creatures, like the hummingbirds who frequent my feeders all summer and then leave for their long migration south as soon as fall commences, know when and where to go and how to find their way back again in the spring. Then there are the geese we see and hear flying around our neighborhood, “practicing” for their migration south at the end of fall. They do this every year, gathering together to share the hard work of navigating such a long distance.

Creatures have amazing instincts. We often read about how the animals and birds began acting strangely before an earthquake, or how they fled to higher ground before a tsunami devasted the coast killing more people than animals. Yes, the natural world functions very well, and it is up to us human beings to harmonize with it. That will bring mutual benefit, and lots of joy.

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