For Christmas, I received a book about a woman pioneer in Wyoming during the early 20th century. The book is entitled Letters of a Woman Homesteader. It is a series of letters written by Elinore Pruitt Stewart to a dear friend in Denver. As I read these letters, I was very mindful that despite the hardships of life, how blessed was this woman of faith to live in such close relationship to creation.
Elinore lost her husband and was the mother of a small child. She did not care for a future of working for others, and longed to be free of her enclosed life in Denver. She heard about the homesteads available in Wyoming to any who were willing to make a claim and work hard. She was invited to come to Wyoming and work for a bachelor rancher, and to pursue her dream of establishing her own homestead.
Her letters recount her many adventures and the people she came to know. I could not help but think how people today can be so far removed from the ‘basics of life’ that this pioneer woman daily endured, and even mostly relished.
She speaks of how she worked the land, from planting her own garden, experimenting with what seeds did best in which types of soil and climate. She knew how to hitch a team of horses to a wagon and was just as comfortable with pulling the equipment to harvest a hay field.
Elinore gave marvelous descriptions of the beauty of creation, from the mountains of southwest Wyoming and their many canyons, to the streams and their bountiful harvest of trout, to a night sky and the grandure of the stars, to the ferocity of winter with its bitter cold, snow and winds. She knew how to make the best of all that creation had to offer for sustenance of body, as well as the beauty it offers for the stirring of the soul.
Though she did not (to my memory) make any direct correlations of her respect and love for the beauty and horrific strength of nature to her faith, such a correlation clearly existed for her.
I could not help but compare the tenacity of this frontier woman and her ability to predict and survive and even appreciate the forces of nature and acknowledge the Creator behind creation to our modern day capacity to wonder ‘why’ in the face of winter storms and think the weather channel is somehow at fault.
Then, this morning, we were greeted with one of those spectacular dawns that naturally draw one’s heart to be lifted in song and gratitude to God who lavishes such beauty upon us faithfully and regularly. I could not help but call to mind verses of Scripture; even the reading from today’s Office of Readings spoke to the truth of what God is revealing through the beauty of creation.
“How precious is your mercy, O God! For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:8, 10)
St. John, speaking of Christ:
“All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:3-5)
Wednesday’s Office of Readings, 1st Week in Ordinary Time, From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, Bishop.
“Through creation itself the Word reveals God the Creator. Through the world he reveals the Lord who made the world. Through all is fashioned he reveals the craftsman who fashioned it all. Through the Son the Word reveals the Father who begot him as Son. “
In reality, most people today do not cut their own firewood, milk their own cow, catch their own fish, make their own clothes, in short rely upon their own resourcefulness to provide all that is necessary for life. However, we are all created with an inner capacity and desire for the Divine.
May we always give thanks for the creative genius of God, every time we turn on a light switch, and try to recall the many ‘steps’ required to take us back to the ‘hand of God’ who created the basic source of that energy. May we be filled with gratitude for every bite of food that we enjoy, taking time to recall the seed of nature from which it sprang to the many hands that planted, cultivated, harvested, processed, prepared, transported and cooked that morsel until it gave nourishment to our body.
May we give thanks for our many conveniences of life today, and never forget their true Source and Origin; Our God and Creator. Let us take time to enjoy the beauty of creation, be it a sunrise or sunset, or even the bitter cold, wind and snow of this season!