by Maria Gonzalez
When I got sent home from college in the spring, I was cautiously optimistic; I knew I would miss being at school, and I would miss my friends, but I also knew I would be home. For me, “home” always seemed so predictable. I associated home with walks around Steilacoom, visits to my grandparents, outings with friends, Sunday services at St. Mary’s, and mornings spent on picturesque trails in our parks.
Of course, by the time I returned to Washington, home felt less familiar. Thankfully, all of the communities that I love being part of were doing their best to transition to online, pandemic-friendly formats. Even my grandparents learned how to use Zoom so that we could still “see” one another. The creativity with which friends and family have adjusted to this new life reminds me how God is always at work in the world. I believe God gives us the strength and the courage to adapt, persevere, and grow, even when certain moments of our lives simply seem impossible. Moments like the present—where acts of love consist of wearing a mask and socially distancing from others.
God has also given us something else to get through this challenging time—Creation. Amidst all the chaos, there is still so much beauty before us. The following verses from Job 12 articulate this idea:
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of [God] has done this? In [God’s] hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all [humankind].” (Job 12:7-10)
I think the first time I truly heard the call of Creation was during a backpacking trip in middle school. Since then, the call has not stopped. Admittedly, I was discouraged when I learned the parks would be closed in the spring and early summer. But I still found myself marveling at Creation—the eagles that returned to the skies above Sunnyside Beach, a golden sunset during a rainstorm, and even the lettuce that sprouted in my mom’s garden, so perfectly green. However inconsequential they may seem, it is a privilege to behold the tiny wonders of our world.
When the parks and beaches began to open again, I put hand sanitizer in my pocket, donned my mask, and ventured out to two of my favorite places: Fremont Lookout and Pacific Beach. I always thought I enjoyed hiking because it gave me an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and with nature. But as I hiked Fremont again, I came to appreciate the quiet community on the trail—the cheerful greetings and gracious manner in which hikers stepped off the trail to stay six feet apart. Mt. Rainier was out by the time I reached the lookout, and the entire valley was clear, too. I let out a sigh of relief; hiking during a pandemic certainly is a different experience, but despite all the changes that have occurred over the past few months, I am still utterly content in nature.
I found peace again, a week later at Pacific Beach. When we drove onto the shore, I immediately took my shoes off and waded in the water. Later, I did cartwheels in the sand before watching the sun sink below the horizon. I thanked God for the beautiful orange glow that was left in the sky.
I marveled at Creation before the pandemic began, I marveled at it throughout the shutdown, and I continue to marvel at it now. Nature calls us all, in one way or another. It is wonderful that we can find what we desire in God’s Creation: solace, community, contentment, peace. But we must also be stewards of Creation, and show it the same respect that we show one another. So as you mask up to head outside, remember to listen and learn from the call of Creation. Remember to love the Earth, too.
Here are some of my favorite hikes (enjoy!):
Goat Rocks: Goat Lake, Old Snowy Mountain, Heart Lake
Maria Gonzalez worships at St. Mary’s, Lakewood and is a sophomore at Harvard University. Maria represented Presiding Bishop Curry at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2018 and 2020, and she also served as a member of the Official Youth Presence at the 79th General Convention. Maria is passionate about women’s empowerment and creation care, and she has participated in the Diocese of Olympia’s social justice and creation care pilgrimages.