We Care - Earth Care!
Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church
August 2020
Nature Issue
“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her” —Wordsworth
Welcome to our monthly newsletter! For years Earth Care has promoted green learning, green living, green faith and green action. But COVID has thrown us for a loop! It was hard to cancel our June retreat and give up gathering for worship or indoor activities. No more film nights or Adult Encounters! How can we stay the course and remain connected? It’s tempting just to turn inward. But we need to inspire and encourage each other.
 
We devised this little publication to share activities, insights, and devotions that may prove refreshing for thirsty pilgrims on the road to sustainability. Each issue will have a guiding theme and a main feature spotlighting green ideas and practices from members of our community. Shorter features will offer tips for responsible living and mindful engagement with nature, as well as poems, scripture, photos, art, music, and links to web resources.
 
In this Issue
 
Main Feature:  Rich Bitting listens to nature during lockdown
Know your Neighbors: Julie Malkin ponders poison ivy
Kids Corner : Linda Ford leaves no stone unturned
Pocket Pilgrimage: Why not pick blueberries?
Quick Escapes : Bill Stiver explores Spring Grove
Speaking of Faith:  Reading the Book of Nature then and now
Main Feature
Listening Under COVID
 
Rich Bitting writes:
 
These last five months have been a time of change for me. With travel postponed and soundwalks and presentations canceled, I’ve been staying much closer to home. Luckily, that means more time in the studio, more time on the bike trail, and more time in the garden. Forced seclusion and isolation have shrunk my world and set me on an uncertain, increasingly personal path. My sense of time is stretched, silence is embraced, and sounds become clearer in solitude.

I’ve found it transformative to sit in the morning twilight, waiting for sunrise as the natural world awakens. Listening through a good set of headphones and microphones is like looking at pondwater through a microscope. Faint sounds become audible and because the ears are the dominant sense here, details of the soundscape present themselves that we would otherwise ignore.  Here are three dawn choruses I was able to record this spring at locations near Cincinnati: Warder Park, Sharon Woods, and East Fork State Park. 
 
In July, I was also able to complete a long-planned video project at Caesar Creek Nature Preserve. I wanted to film the main creek in the gorge while collecting the soundscape audio. On the path to the site, I crossed a footbridge over a small stream and glanced down to notice water striders making patterns of ripples on the surface.
 
After about an hour of recording the main creek I was not satisfied with what I had heard and seen: airplanes, insects, a few frogs, and a faint call of a wood thrush. I turned the microphones away from the creek trying to find the thrush and immediately heard it loud and clear. But what video could I use? It was then that I remembered the water striders. I walked back to the bridge and recorded the water striders and wood thrush accompanied by a few frogs. By listening to the soundscape and reacting to the environment I ended up with a more interesting recording.
 
Later, editing back in my studio, I kept imagining a quiet excerpt from my Veni Creator as part of the audio. So I patched it in. It now brings focus to the natural sounds and video. I discovered that sometimes, with nature’s help, you have to ignore carefully made plans.
 
Here is a link to the completed piece.
Know Your Neighbors
Curiosity as a spiritual practice

Julie Malkin writes:
 
The other day I was thinking about a regular feature for this newsletter, “What’s growing in my backyard?”  When I looked out over my deck, I saw thick poison ivy lining the banks of our lovely stream. Could poison ivy be worth a reflection? It is a potent skin irritant that invades our yards, so probably not.  But suppose we met every thing that shows up in life, not with disdain but with curiosity, patience and observation?
 
While we may not benefit directly from poison ivy, it does play a role in the ecosystem. According to the New England Wildflower Society, it “should also be admired for its versatility. It takes on many forms, from small seedlings to shrubs, to high-climbing vines. With its shiny, variably toothed leaves displayed in groups of three, it is easy to recognize. When ripe, the white fruits are a favorite food of many migrant and game birds, as well as white-tailed deer. The seeds are adapted for sprouting after digestion softens the seed coat. Poison ivy sap has been used to make indelible ink. Field experiments have shown that poison ivy is tolerant of being inundated by wastewater, and could potentially be used to treat sewage.” And as if all this weren’t enough, I also learned that poison ivy compounds are used in homeopathic medicine to treat arthritis, pain, menstrual disorders and some rashes.
 
This little exercise didn’t reveal profound insights into poison ivy, but I found the process of asking questions about something so irksome to be spiritually engaging, an insight I am contemplating.
Kids Corner
Linda Ford writes: 

Here’s a fun activity I do with my grandsons (ages 1 to 5). 
1) Find a secluded area in your yard or a nearby park. It can be sunny or shady. Examine it carefully and write down what you see. Are there any insects, worms, or small plants? Is the soil wet, damp, or dry? What is its texture - crumbly, sandy, or clay-like? You might take a plastic spoon and probe gently beneath the surface. You might use a small magnifier to catch fine details.
2)      Now place a flat rock or rest a log on that same area. You might want to dampen the spot first.
3)      Return after 3 days and gently remove the rock or log. Go through your observations again. What do you find that is different? What has stayed the same? Did you create a new habitat?
4)      Gently replace your rock or log and return to this place over several weeks to make observations.
5)      Have a conversation with your siblings, friends, and family members about building habitats in your yard and/or neighborhood
Pocket Pilgrimage
Diane Smith writes:
 
OK, maybe we no longer live in the Garden of Eden and have to work for food, but you can still connect with the land and its fruits. Try picking blueberries at Once in a Blue Moon Farm just south of Dayton. This is a fun outing for young and old; the berries are big, ripe, and delicious right now. Pick ‘em yourself and pay by the pound. Masks are required. The farm is located at 3984 East Social Row Rd., Waynesville OH 45068. Take I-75 north to exit 41 (Austin Blvd) then go right for about eight miles. Picking hours are posted on their Facebook page .
Quick Escapes
Bill Stiver writes:

For a good in-town walk it’s hard to beat Spring Grove Cemetery . With 733 acres, it’s the third largest in the US, with over 30 miles of roadway, 1000 labeled trees and shrubs, and several lakes and ponds. It is the burial site of worthies like Salmon P. Chase, Proctor, Gamble, Pogue, Erkenbrecker, and many of the Taft family. springgrove.org offers maps and brochures, including self-guided history, art, and architecture tours.

The roads wind through both flat and hilly sections where, besides a tremendous variety of bird species, I have seen deer, turkeys, foxes and hawks. Dogs, however, are not permitted. Currently the gates are open 8AM to 8PM on Mondays and Thursdays and 8AM – 6PM the rest of the week.

For a small local gem check out Buttercup Preserve in Northside. This 27 acre park is hilly and has both paved and unpaved trails. It’s a great place for spring wildflowers and you can also admire large trees that are over 200 years old. Dogs are allowed. The preserve extends from the end of Stanford Drive (off Hamilton Avenue) to Crawford Avenue near Spring Grove Cemetery. Another city park, Parker’s Woods is adjacent. ( cincinnatiparks.com ). 
Speaking of Faith
Reading the Book of Nature
The heavens are telling he glory of God, and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. … Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. —Psalm 19
John Tallmadge writes:

The ancient Hebrews believed that God spoke through nature as well as through the prophets, and St. Paul argued that the heathen had no excuse for their unbelief because God’s invisible character and will had been clearly engraved in creation itself. Early church fathers like St. Augustine and St. Jerome developed this notion into a doctrine of two parallel revelations, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. For more than a thousand years reading the Book of Nature preoccupied natural philosophers and inspired poets, who found “sermons in stones, books in running brooks,” and Christian doctrine in everything.  
The concept survived the scientific revolution of the 17 th century and reached our shores with Puritan divines like Jonathan Edwards and romantic philosophers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who declared that natural facts were signs of spiritual realities: one could reach heaven, it seemed, by studying nature. His disciple John Muir took a less theological view, reading glacial grooves in the Sierra as traces of God’s artistic activity; to him the Book of Nature was not Christian allegory but sacred history. 
 
You can page through the Book of Nature either way right here in Cincinnati. Drive through the cut in the hill and notice the layers of Ordovician limestone 350 million years old, or stroll the geological time walk at Sawyer Point. Or just spend some time in your neighborhood or back yard and get to know the plants. Each one has a story and a body of lore that connects it to its neighbors, both human and wild. Nature is not on lockdown, and the backyard swarms and buzzes with lessons. There’s a lot going on! As Muir joyfully declared, the world is still being made. We all live in the morning of creation.
What's Ahead
Here are the themes planned for our next four issues:
September: Trees
October: Election Issues: Local, National, and Global
November: Food
December: Energy
We hope you enjoy this newsletter. And remember, it is about and for you. Please send contributions, ideas, and creations to your faithful editors Julie Malkin   mlkjulia458@gmail.com   and John Tallmadge.   jatallmadge@gmail.com