Last week, I invited my “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts” class to participate in a mindfulness exercise. After reading Psalm 8 and discussing the tension between human significance and insignificance in the natural order, I asked them to go on a silent meditative walk for twelve minutes, taking special note of nature’s persistence even in the midst of an urban setting. I asked them to find an object, animal, sound, or smell that grabbed their attention as they also took note of how their own body felt during the exercise. For many in the class it was a much needed pause at the end of the first week back at school.
During the reflection time, one student noticed the ants on blades of grass while another compared the movement of cars beyond the large green space on campus to ants, busily running across the tree branch of a road. One student collected acorns while another marveled at the vastness of the sky.
As for me, I took the time to walk behind a building on campus where I rarely tread and discovered a large tree with four strong trunks extending towards the sky in a circle. I embraced my wacky professor persona and climbed in between the trunks, leaning on one while propping my feet up on another. I took the time to observe the textures in the bark and the structure of the branches. As I was exploring various knots in one of the trunks, I discovered this nail and immediately wanted to know its story. Why was it there? Did it serve a purpose? Was it there to tie of a string? To hold up a notice? Did someone just feel the need to hammer a nail in the knot of the tree? I took a few snaps of it with my iPhone, but sometimes an iPhone is not enough. So, on my way into work this morning, I brought my macro lens and handheld led light and explored the story of the nail further, resulting in the image above. I still have many questions for that nail, but our conversations leave me wondering again about the significance and insignificance of humankind, our impact on the natural world, and nature’s persistence in spite of us.