Panentheist Moment

Although I was very happy to be back on my favorite wetland trail with Bear yesterday, the hike was miserable in terms of physical comfort. As I walked, swatting horseflies, sweating and worrying about my dog — who’s a winter beast — I thought of an intense moment early in my acquaintance with the Southern California chaparral — probably 1988.

For the first year I hiked there, I stopped at the first sight of, well, second sight of, rattlesnakes. I returned when the weather cooled again and the snakes went underground. One afternoon in December, when the chaparral was green and sweet with the fragrance of black sage, I stopped on a ridge and looked out over everything. Those humped hills and valley, the two streams, were not yet a park, just an open space waiting for its future.

I said, “God, why are you so beautiful.” I wasn’t actually talking to God. It was more of an exclamatory word, but he answered.

Don’t call the guys with the white coats. There’s more.

God answered. He said, “So you would love me.”

“I do love you,” I answered.

“No, you just love me now when I’m green and comfortable, and my snakes are sleeping.”

I took that as a challenge and vowed to myself that I would hike in all seasons, and I did. Summer hikes were a lot different, but they were great, too. I got more or less used to snakes, and the one that killed two of my dogs wasn’t out there. It was in my yard. God knew what he was talking about.

That moment was a kind of passage for me and a lesson about love.

Yesterday at the slough I remembered all those summer hikes with gallons of water on my back for me and my dogs. I thought of how I learned that flowers bloomed in the chaparral in EVERY season, even the most sear, and that in the early evenings the air was tinged with pink as the ocean mist reached its soft fingers back up the inland canyons.

Yesterday I rolled down my shirt sleeves against mosquitoes (which don’t like me anyway) and horseflies (which might). I wished I’d worn jeans. My dog smelled the air and the ground in calm Bear joy, glad, also, to be back on this trail we love so much. I studied the cloudy sky that promised storms but didn’t deliver and wondered why it had been so windy at home (2 miles away) and so calm here. The stagnant inland pools left behind by the Rio Grande’s receding flood were covered with pale green algae. A white pelican flew over.

If it had been more comfortable for Bear — or if I’d brought water — I’d have taken the loop that brings us to the river. The milkweed was in full bloom and as tall as my shoulder. Monarch butterflies flew everywhere. And I thought of that moment so long ago, when God had answered my question, and thanked him.

*Panentheism = the belief that God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it.” Or, in the words of the five year old who explained it to me, “Everything is God.”

8 thoughts on “Panentheist Moment

  1. I love those moments when you are one. If God is everything, then God is you. Sounds a bit schizophrenic, but you know what I mean. I like walking on windy (but not too windy) summer evenings. It is harder for the mozzies to latch on.

    • Wind is a good bug deterrent. Everything is God. That doesn’t exclude anything, so yeah. I know what you mean. I’m really happy that my friends here — who are church-going Christians — accept me for who I am and what I believe, but, of course, since God is everything that includes Methodists and Church of England, too, so sometimes I go to church. ❤ ❤

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