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Down by the Riverside


     Underfoot, on the short quarter-mile of paved trail that goes from the parking lot to the river at Hudson Mills Metropark, I saw three different kinds of nuts. Light-brown shagbark hickory nuts with their segmented shells. Smashed black walnut hulls promising to stain the fingers of anyone foolish enough to pick them up. Acorns rolling like ball bearings under my boots.
     Lots of nuts.

     Biologists say 2021 was a "mast year," part of a natural cycle when certain trees produce more than their usual amount of "mast," which means nuts. A mast year can be brought on by stress like drought in the previous season. 2010 was our last big mast year.
     A mess for humans, but a feast for chipmunks, deer, and squirrels.
     Jesus often talked about how God provides for his creatures, human and non-human, pointing out lilies, sparrows, and fields ripe for harvest. I especially like one of his phrases describing kernels of corn in a jar or basket: "pressed down, shaken together, and running over."
     As I walk, I'm also amazed at how many different kinds of things there are in the woods, which to me is more evidence of God's reckless extravagance. Gerard Manly Hopkins praised the variety of creation in his poem, "Pied Beauty," combining in one line "fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls" and "finches' wings." I imagine the gleaming red-brown of sweet chestnuts and the bright yellow and black of goldfinch wings.
     The profligacy of creation. Not just the bare minimum. More than enough.
     Of course there are lean years. Even famine. But cultivating an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity allows us to enjoy what we do have when we have it.
     A long time ago I read a newsletter from a mission organization that provided food in Africa. The article described the joyous song of children in a village that had been served: "We have food. We have clothes. We have everything."  
     May we always remember the bounty we've been given. And with glad hearts may we share it with others.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back." Luke 6:38 (NRSV)
Playlist: "All Creatures of Our God and King," Mark Geslison & Geoff Groberg, All Creatures of Our God and King, 2020.


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