Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Forest Herbs and their Pollinators

The stars declare his glory;
the vault of heaven springs,
mute witness of the Master's hand
in all created things,
and through the silences of space
their soundless music sings.

 - Timothy Dudley-Smith (1)

I am Coffee Bytes just now, a few minutes away from my inaugural trip to Birge Hall, a block and half down University Drive from this coffee shop. Every week I try to sit in on an open lecture on campus. More than a few times, I have found myself in over my head. This one, at Birge Hall, is especially intimidating:
The influence of climate and land-use history on native forest herbs 
and their pollinators in the Southern Appalachians.

Yep. That's the real title. Admittedly, not my first choice, but schedules and availability play a part. I am finding that the commitment to be interested is itself a discipline - a discipline I am finding to be especially worthwhile.

Indeed, part of my intention in these visits is to witness the interest of the People of God in things that it might be easy not to notice, much less show an active interest in. Of course, for this witness to be sincere, the interest must be sincere. But this is actually the best thing about interest, I have found, because the interested one gets to decide what interests her/him. And there is a wonderful freedom in this.(2) One need not apologize for one's interests. So I come to these gatherings ready to say why the work interests me, and I come ready to listen to the interest of others because I am genuinely interested in that, too. 

My particular interest in the influence of climate and land-use history on native forest herbs and their pollinators in the Southern Appalachians is 3-fold:

Having lived in NC for three years, and honeymooned on Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, TN, I have a personal/geographical interest. I love the region.

Some years ago, Ellen Davis, Wendell Berry, and others, reawakened my imagination to the importance of land and place, and how we care for land and place, as Christians. This imagination has everything to do with daily life and how Christians read Scripture.

When I first read the lecture title, the words to the hymn at the top of this post surfaced from some far-off recesses of my soul. Hymn 431 was my "first favorite" hymn as a child. I found it difficult to sing and impossible not to love. I come to this lecture to learn more about the "soundless music" whereby creation livings its/our constant praise of God.


(1) Hymn 431 in the Hymnal 1982
(2) I have sometimes found that, for fear of not knowing enough - or some similar insecurity - we in the Church don't indicate our interest in the interests of others nearly enough, to our mutual poverty. The Kingdom comes to those like children. Be not afraid.

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