There is something about a couple of inches of rain in late August. The grass, only days before struggling in the arid summer heat, suddenly surges back to life.
The flowers seem to have a new excitement to their color. The crimson of the celosia is blazing. The cleome is arrayed in a dazzling pink and the nocturnal white of the moonflower is brilliant as it greets the morning sun.
“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad,” the psalmist wrote. “Let the sea resound ... Let the fields be jubilant ... Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.”
Just walking in the wet grass, watching a couple of rabbits romp in a patch of resurrected clover, listening to the sounds of nature all roused and ready, was not without effect.
It was a burst of energy, a dose of joy, a prayer answered before even asked.
William Wordsworth was one of the first of the great poets of nature. In “Intimations on Immortality,” he wrote, “There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, / The earth and every common sight, / To me did seem / Appareled in celestial light.”
From Wordsworth in the 18th century to the recently deceased Mary Oliver, great poets have found inspiration and revelation in rambling woods, lush meadows, even storm-laden skies.
While not all were religiously subscribed, they did find in the verdant world around them a profound work of beauty with the fingerprints of some transcendent power.
Gerard Manly Hopkins had no problem naming that mystery. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” he wrote, “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”
It’s not just the poets. Hikers, bikers, farmers, gardeners, astrophysicists and microbiologists have all witnessed the elegance and vitality of our creation.
After 13.8 billion years, it is still becoming, still unveiling, still inviting all to behold and belong.
Hopkins and others saw in the world a reflection of God. Climbing a mountain or staring at the sea, it is hard not to agree.
But after an August rain, plunging a spade into the soil and uncovering wriggling earthworms that weren’t there in yesterday’s dry dirt, I think it may be more than that.
The late physicist Stephen Hawkins asked, “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”
My bet is on God, not just reflected in the natural world, but deeply embedded in it.