– Reconnecting with the Community and the Land
by Carol Hohle
For the past sixteen years I’ve lived in a small town eleven miles west of Boston. For the first thirteen of those years I commuted into Boston five or six days a week, worked long hours, and knew the roads that led in and out of Boston better than I knew my neighbors. I enjoyed the drive up Merriam and Newton streets. Noticing the trees and the way the light danced through them during each season brought me great pleasure and relaxation. And, when I finally left my city job I hoped I would have an opportunity to feel more a part of my town – to feel like it was more than just the place where I slept.
Becoming active in local church and civic organizations has certainly helped me connect with my neighbors, but a deeper sense of belonging and connection has come as I have reconnected with the land itself. Our town has thousands of acres of protected conservation land, a huge parcel of which opens up right across our street. Simply being outside and walking my dogs every day, regardless of the New England weather – in driving rain, or gentle snow, or in the soft breezes of spring, or on a crisp autumn day with leaves in the air – has put me in direct daily contact with the natural world around me. We walk for a good hour every day among the woods, fields, streams, apple orchard, and pond that are all part of the natural scene. Bit by bit, this consistent contact with nature has humbled me and made me appreciate its delicate beauty. Each blade of grass, each glorious tree, every bird and ant, each breeze and cloud remind me of the larger reality – the universe that exists beyond my own struggles and joys, beyond humanity’s foibles and victories – a universe that includes all of God’s creation.
My ecological consciousness has grown as a result of these walks. I also began riding my bicycle around town, running errands to the post office, library and grocery store. With some other peace activists I vigiled on Saturday mornings by the town green – my sign read, “Peace For the Whole Earth.” I began purchasing vegetables at the local organic farm; feeling especially satisfied knowing the very fields where my lettuce was grown. I love knowing the people who raise my food, volunteer in the library, and work in the grocery store and post office. I am indebted to them for the gifts they are providing in my life. I feel at home in a totally new way – connected to the land and to the community where I live.
This summer, as I walked through the woods and trails photographing some of my favorite plants and views, I was reminded of a passage by a favorite author, Mary Baker Eddy. “Nature voices natural, spiritual law and divine Love, but human belief misinterprets nature. Arctic regions, sunny tropics, giant hills, winged winds, mighty bellows, verdant vales, festive flowers, and glorious heavens, –all point to Mind, the spiritual intelligence they reflect. The floral apostles are hieroglyphs of Deity. Suns and planets teach grand lessons. The stars make night beautiful, and the leaflet turns naturally towards the light.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 240) I, too, like the leaflet, was beginning to turn towards the light and appreciate the grand lessons nature could teach. I knew from somewhere deep in my being that I had become disconnected from the land and my community, and that I was suffering from the myth of self-sufficiency. Getting humble and “going local” has begun to awaken me to the richness of community and my place in the interconnected scheme of things.