To care for the environment is an essential concept of life that I’ve always liked to learn, explore and support. My interest grew when I took my Senior Capstone project for my undergraduate degree in Environmental studies. Tryon Creek State Park offered this project. This state park is located within Portland metropolitan area close to downtown. It was the best class I had ever taken in my two years at Portland State University.
The project included a self-paced individual task to work on during the park working hours, 7 am – 7 pm. We also had a group project to plan summer night programs for the park to use. Our class time was four to five hours a week at the park as volunteer park rangers. Our job was to inform and direct park users on observing park rules, including appropriate disposal of pet litter in the garbage cans, leading people to areas to go, and keeping a log with data of people‘s activities in the park.
My favorite spot was the bridge over the wide part of the creek. I was alone, but this space was full of nature‘s music and beauty. I heard birds chirping and squirrels scuttering. I could see critters, crawlers, insects, and the lovely butterflies freely roaming the space. Plants of all shades of green covered the banks of the creek. I loved watching how they changed their shades of green at different times of the day. On my second day at the park, It was so peaceful and comfortable; it was like being home. My spirit was cheerful and I felt blessed to be one of God‘s creatures in this ecosystem.
Although I was in my early forties then, I had not been in a forest park alone—a park with a quiet little creek flowing in the middle of it. In my island experience, we have an ocean, wilder than rivers. This calm, gentle stream flowing through the forest was just amazing. I was always amazed when I took my walks through the majestic wooded land of cedar and fir trees, with shade from the branches protecting me from the sun and rain. I knew that every breath I took was rich with the oxygen from the trees, and I was feeding them with the breath I exhaled. This symbiotic relationship we have with nature must be preserved and encouraged.
Tryon Creek and many other state parks are gifts of nature‘s blessings. They are a holy place where I felt God‘s presence was spiritual and physical. My moments, alone in the woods, the moving creatures, and giant trees filled my heart with awe and wonder, and I was not afraid. My instinct informed me I‘m a welcome visitor in this space, populated with living creatures, peaceful and harmonious. I‘m a creature in God‘s beautiful creation, plants, trees, crawlers, flying critters, swimming animals, the sun, and wind. I can imagine the garden of Eden. I thought about Psalm 23 “he leads beside still waters; he restores my soul… I fear no evil for you are with me;“ I believe I understood the Psalmist words, for I‘m experiencing it.
Tryon Creek and many other state parks in Oregon are nature‘s blessings. When we think of creation care, we always come back to God and the creation story, how it took seven days to create a self–sustained world rich with living creatures, plants, and trees. Our responsibility is to understand and learn to take care of our environment and our ecosystem’s living creatures.
In these past weeks, when I was in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, I found great joy watching the lively activities in my back yard. I had a full view of three and sometimes four busy squirrels and the neighbor‘s cats playing in my backyard. They humored me much with their speed and energy.
Pastor Kalina Malua Katoa