This post was intended to be published last week. So, what was the delay? Well, its complicated. To begin, I wanted to do some practicing of the new Works of Mercy of Care for and Contemplation of Creation. To achieve this, I decided to do something rather simple: Go for a walk, contemplate creation, and if I found trash I’d take a picture of it, throw it away, and then write about my experience.
The inspiration of this Care for Creation Walk was twofold: First, my retreat experience I wrote about a few weeks back and Christopher Graney. A couple months ago, Chris pitched the idea of using Google Maps to virtually comb the streets of our home towns to see how much pollution we could find in a rather popular and public cyber forum. I think I’m going to do this for next week’s post. Last week, however, I wanted to get out for a walk for a time of prayer and to participate in a basic work of mercy of picking up trash.
I should have anticipated that this simple idea would reveal complexities before I even hit the streets with my camera. What are those complexities, you may ask? Well, the complexity that emerged wasn’t about how much trash I found on my walk, but how little I found in certain areas of the town I live.
I started my walk at a popular location in Eau Claire, Wisconsin I’ve mentioned before in my posts: Phoenix Park. Why this park? First of all, its beautiful and peaceful. For the past few years I have come to this park to relax and pray. From a standpoint of care for creation, I figured that the comingling of a beautiful park, a lot of people, weather that is getting warmer, and Covid-19 restrictions being relaxed would create a situation where a little litter pick would be needed.
Much to my surprise and delight, I hardly found any garbage in the park – GREAT! The only trash I found was a napkin that blew out of a trash can (understandable on a windy day), a plastic water bottle that found its way in the weeds, and an abandoned facemask on the sidewalk. After disposing of these items of trash, I felt proud of the city I live in as I was able to simply enjoy the prayer walk, bumped into friends, and rested on the Sabbath!
I was about to write my post for Sacred Space Astronomy when I had the thought: That was just one area of the city, let’s explore some other places. So, I took this past week to explore different places with different uses and purposes. Again, I was pleasantly surprised with how little trash I saw in the Eau Claire Community. However, I started to notice some odd trends.
What were the trends that I saw? By no means does what I am about to share constitute a “scientific statement” about the psychology of trash – I’d need a lot more data to construct such a thing. However, on a very basic level I started to see that some areas of the city were pristine in their appearance while other areas were a bit more on the littered side of the spectrum. Again, I didn’t see anything horribly egregious in terms of pollution, but I did see trends that led to questions.
Is what I am seeing a sign of socioeconomic factors, reflections of differing priorities throughout the city, visual expressions of self-worth or lack thereof, social statements of frustration, laziness, or differing priorities of the city in terms of care for creation? Why am I not surprised that the largest amount of trash I saw was on the shoulders of streets and in ditches that separate four lane highways?
Again, I want to emphasize, I was pleasantly surprised with how clean the city of Eau Claire revealed itself to be. All I’m trying to communicate is that I’m finding that the Contemplation of and Care for Creation is raising more questions for me to reflect upon. Put another way, God’s trying to show me something and I’m trying to see what that “something” is.
These past two weeks have provided some very fruitful prayer. How do I know? Because they have led me to a peace of heart, a gnawing desire to repeat the prayer, and a list of insights and questions to feed me this week. Now comes the challenging part of this journey of practicing these works of mercy: Make sure the journey continues!
Spiritual Exercise: Get out and do a Care for Creation Walk today. Do some prayer on the walk – perhaps reflect on a passage of Scripture, pray a Rosary, or just reflect in contemplative silence on the world around you. If you see something that needs to be thrown away, throw it away. If you see something that prompts questions in your heart, reflect upon them. Let’s practice Care for and Contemplation of Creation. Let us embrace these Works of Mercy. And may our embracing of these works help us both care for God’s creation and see our world with the eyes of faith, embracing our call to be good stewards of God’s creation.