Time To Sit And Be Still: Celtic Reflection On Nature

20170704 TIME TO SIT AND BE STILLBack home now, and in my garden in Wales there are just over a dozen wonderful trees. From spring onward they erupt, joyfully with their ‘hands’ raised in praise and extending skyward, in the most delightful and different shades of green as they sprout leaves.

Wonderful trees. I love trees.

This morning, as the sun was just rising, I walked past two silver birches (betula pendula), a horse chestnut tree (aesculus hippocatanum), two ash trees (fraxinus excelsior), and two English oak trees (quercus robur), but didn’t quite make it to the end of the garden to name them in this article. I like to familiarise myself with trees, especially, but plants and wildlife in particular, and know their latin names.

‘The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.’ (John Muir)

Names are not just convenient ways for us to differentiate between different objects. Names are responsible for the differences between all things on this earth. Names have power.

As I stood there, looking at those other trees, I whispered their name – not their lain name, as I was ‘naming’ them only as I passed the trees and ‘greeted’ them. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to ignore those wonderful trees, and so I collectively called them…Kin.

‘Perhaps we are here in order to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window…to say them more intensely than the Things themselves ever dreamed of existing’. Rainer Maria Rilke


There is a school of thought that says that we are separate from nature. We think we’re separate, and act accordingly, we treat nature in an inferior (and, badly in many cases) because we see it as other, different from us, and ‘distant’.

Nature is wild. It doesn’t conform to our straight city lines. It must be controlled, at least that is the current thinking. Many have a(n ancient Greek) dualistic idea about this. For them, there is nature and humankind. Separate.

Dualism sadly dominates the current thought in our culture, and it is difficult to step outside it. But not impossible.

‘All the big problems of the world today are routed in the philosophy of separateness and dualism.’ (Satish Kumar)

And so, there is another school of thought, and the dualists will roll their eyes at this, that says we are all connected. There is a oneness in creation (like a luminous web, for those who have eyes to see it), and, though we might think we’re separate, we’re not.


I like that idea of connectedness. Rather than the duty to subdue nature, we have a responsibility to respect it’s raw, ‘natural’ wildness and to extend reverence to it. As I stood in the garden this morning I was overwhelmed but the lush greenness of that wild and wonderful place.

‘Green is the colour of relentless desire. Even from under earth smothered with concrete or tarmacadam, the green (grass) blade will rise’ (John O’Donohue)

Green is the colour of life, new life, energy, vitality, youthfulness, growth and maturity. It is the sign that life abounds, that there is hope, and for Druids and Celtic-Christians (and for those who know the history of our once-agrarian community) it is a sign that the cycle of life continues, that new life is here, and, yes, that leaf-fall is not far away. Circularity.

Nothing can really stop ‘green’ advancing. Trees asleep in the winter, ‘chomping’ away silently on the leaf-fall of the previous autumn, suddenly wake up and spring forth without reference to humankind. Weeds, too!

I like the idea of the cycle or circle in nature. It’s how we can, and in agrarian times had to mark the seasons. How sad that many do not recognise nature’s cycle today, or the moon’s phases – something which current Druids and Celtic Christian do, and those of old, those ancient Hebrews (and especially the Psalmist) did. In not marking the passing of the seasons we are poorer for it. Be encouraged to observe the seasons – odd though it may be to our ‘find-anything-in-the-local-supermarket’ mentality, and as odd as it may appear to others, it puts us back in touch with nature. Try it!

Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind’s
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks,
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer.

(Wendell Berry)

Cycles for the annual seasons. And, perhaps a larger cycle for humanity, too. One creation story, tells that the earth was formed in epochs, and the formation of the Garden, and that the last addition to the Garden was humankind. There, our fore parents were placed in a lush and vibrant green forest. Time went by and access to that Garden was lost – or could it be that we just think we lost access to it. Could it be that some with their nature-based ritual or ‘science’ or intuition are catching glimpses of the Garden as it ‘breaks through’ momentarily?

At the end of that creation story – of things yet to come – humankind eventually draws near to a wonderful green rainbow. Green, again. The colour of life, new life and hope. Circularity. Restoration. Elemental.


And so I observed those wonderful trees this morning. Not separate from them, but connected to them, and sharing space with them in this garden, and the Garden. Truly, we are all embraced, whether we know it or not, by the God of Green Hope (see Romans 15:13, The Book (‘The Message’ version)).

Whether you live in a rural area or the city, nature abounds. The city may have its humankind-constructed monoliths, but nature displays its love and plenitude in green fecundity in city parks, small gardens or window-boxes, weeds between the pavement stones, and a myriad of animals (such as mice, urban foxes, a myriad of birds etc) and insects – is it ‘flying ant time’, yet? How do they know when to come out, and all together?

Nature is wonderful, even in the city.

‘Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow! Grow!’. (The Talmud)

‘Go elemental’.


1 thought on “Time To Sit And Be Still: Celtic Reflection On Nature

  1. Pingback: Time To Sit And Be Still: Celtic Reflection On Nature | The Crane Book of Wisdom

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