…for they speak with the voice of God

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Whenever we stay in Sleepy Hollow, New York we make time to wander the grounds of Rockefeller Preserve.  This time, in early November, the golden, beckoning arms of autumn enveloped us as soon as we stepped onto the property.  My heart immediately became full, my spirit stilled, as I walked the familiar paths and watched my kids skip stones across the lake.  It was as if an old memory had somehow stepped forward and merged with the present.  This is why, I thought, we embrace traditions, the act of merging past and present and future.  It brings us comfort in its consistency and reoccurrence.

For many they go to a temple, a church house, or other structures of ritual and worship to feel the divine.  I respect that.  We all have our own pathway in which the divine, the spirit, God, or whatever you wish to call it speaks to us.  For me, I have a hard time connecting spiritually in my church or temple.  For me, the divine finds my heart in nature; in a walk through the woods, or in the reflection of autumn trees on a lake.  And this has been especially true in this particular place.  Rockefeller Preserve at once got under my skin the first time I was there.  I've often pondered as to why.  One thought I've toyed with is that many of my French Huguenot and Dutch ancestors once called this area home.  Maybe some of my cells, something in my DNA, recognized this place.  Perhaps a great grandmother once stole away to meet a secret and forbidden lover under these trees.  But that is just my imagination running away with me, as it tends to do.  It doesn't matter why I feel this connection.  I just do.  And this is where my spirit finds its pathway to my mind and opens it in ways it can't otherwise be opened.

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"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." - George Washington Carver

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The timing of my return to Rockefeller could not have been more perfect.  I'm in a time of belief and thought transition in my life.  I'm taking ownership of where my faith should lie, of what is deserving of my time and heart, and a lot of the change I am making breaks with the tradition of my fathers.  Traditions are comforting and worthy, the merging of the past and the present, but some can be stifling and unhealthy, and those are the things that must be examined, no matter the discomfort it causes the psyche.  In the wise words of Robert Frost, "Two roads diverged in the wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

As I walked the paths that wound through hauntingly beautiful woods, streams, and hills, I found myself holding back tears.  One or two would escape and I would quietly wipe it away.  I felt my spirit communing with the divine, with nature, and with beauty, and all I felt was love and affirmation.  I have been trusting my intuition more lately, even as it leads me away from old, and sometimes harmful, beliefs.  It's been frightening and uncomfortable in many ways, but here in nature, in the woods of the northeast, I could see the rightness in following where my heart leads.  A sense of liberation, freedom, and appreciation for the world around me took hold.  Nature is my chapel, and never fails me.

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I realize I am far from alone in understanding nature's effect on our spirits.  Poets have written entire books on this subject alone, and I know most of us can look back on a breathtakingly beautiful, spiritual moment that took place simply because we were in a forest, or on a beach, or a jungle, or desert.  For me, my spirit connects most with the northeast woods.  The New England and New York woods speak the language of my soul.  And if it is autumn, all the better.

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I wish I would think to spend more time than I do in my chapel made up of oaks, maples, of fallen leaves, dirt walkways, of streams and lakes that reflect the flow of life, that bear testimony of the ripple effect of love, demonstrated in a thrown pebble disrupting a watery surface.  Life has a way of getting in the way.  The distractions and tasks of life, however, make moments like this all the sweeter.  And it is all important for spiritually connecting with the divine, the mundane moments as well as the spectacular ones that leave us in grateful tears or in deep serenity.

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In the restructuring of my beliefs, my faith, of my way of life, I will add to the good and healthy traditions of my youth that I am keeping, a new one, merging present with future.  Instead of investing my precious time in certain unfulfilling and unhealthy obligations that I am now letting go of, I will make time for small moments of devotion to be near a still pond, a raging river, or under a canopy of trees, staring at a sunset, or simply walking a dirt path and looking up at the stars through skeletal branches; letting my spirit reconnect to the earth that grounds me and sustains life and centers my soul.

"Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God." - George Washington Carver

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  1. This is the most beautiful, sincere, well written post. I love you. x

  2. The world we live in is God's revelation of himself to man. And that is why, imo, that we feel close to God in nature. His handiwork speaks for itself, it speaks of him. It is quite divine to experience the beauty and grandeur of nature and most difficult to separate the divine from divinity. In my heart I know it is his handiwork and not some random act. And it is apparent that George Washington Carver recognized this too.

  3. More beautiful, captivating pictures - gorgeous colours!

    Reading your remarks of recognising spirituality in nature I'm reminded of the words of Dorothy Frances Gurney:

    "Kiss of the sun for pardon. Song of the birds for mirth. You're closer to God's heart in the garden than any place else on earth."

    Thankyou for sharing your thoughts and these pictures, Alyson :-)

  4. What stunning pictures! The Great Northwest, which I adore, can't compare with that part of the world in Autumn time. Not even close. It's been my dream vacation to one day go to New England in the Fall. Ahhhh.

    Like you said so beautifully, you're completely not alone in your temple of the woods. It's God's handiwork in its purest form. All of the prophets it seemed communed with God in the woods or the mountaintops. When our teenaged son went to a church camp over the summer, they had a time when each of the boys needed to go off into the woods by themselves (they're 16-18 year olds) and bring their scriptures and have some time of personal study and prayer. From Moses to Abraham to Joseph Smith to even Christ himself, they all knew what you know--God is in the natural world around us!

  5. I am in tears reading such a beautiful, honest post. ❤️

  6. So incredible. This is exactly what I picture when I think of a New England Fall. One day I will see it in person :)

  7. Such a beautiful, heartfelt post. Not only the photos are gorgeous, but your words are so heartfelt and real. I hope that you find love and joy and peace in your temple in the trees. I think that if God is anywhere, it is there. Wishing you so much goodness on your journey through faith and through the beautiful landscape of New England!~

  8. I find my greatest peace in the ocean, but also love rambling through the woods. My husband's sanctuary are the mountains. I think both of us have been getting more of a connection with the divine in those places that at church (or in the temple) for awhile now.

  9. As a teenager I used to escape the stress of the city on Saturdays to ride horses on those trails. You capture them so well. I can hear the thunder of hoofbeats around the pond. There is a special spirituality about nature. It's good that you've found peace.

  10. I can't believe that you have not turned those pictures into cards and set up your business! :-) I would buy them in a flash. They are the most beautiful autumn photos I have ever come across. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  11. Absolutely gorgeous! I felt peaceful and serene just looking at these pictures and reading your words. I need to visit Rockefeller Preserve! I fully believe that one of the major ways we can feel the Spirit is when we revel in the beauty of nature.

  12. I have felt that way as well. I always feel the spirit in nature.

  13. Great post, Aly! Nature, especially out in the woods, is so peaceful and connecting to bigger things.

    Love the George Washington Carver quotes! Did you know he invented peanut butter? He's a great read btw. An amazing inventor and learned a lot from just reading the Bible!

  14. We get so busy we forget to feed our souls. I think we all have different callings....there's a lot to be done and we are all made differently so we can see and accomplish the different necessary tasks....maybe there's a need for all of it but if our soul is crying get out for the woods it's because we are like a flower that will bloom in the woods....not any less valuable than another of God's creations that will only bloom in the dessert or in a garden. I've learned not to reject all of it, just go in the direction my heart leads and let my communion be there. I so needed to look at these pictures of the orange leaves in this post today and ponder these things, month and months after you wrote it! I cry the same tears as you and ask the same questions....and how I know He would love to heal our hearts and answer our questions. I feel His love in nature. I think the woods are to feed my soul, while church and temple are a place to do a work...to carry a work forward...and when I look at it with that perspective I understand. Working in the garden I've pondered a lot of deeplying spiritual concepts. They all make sense in the garden. Let's just say it's all part of the picture....and the part you and I love is soaking up the sun's rays, while our roots deep in the earth pull nourishment :)