Reverence on the homestead

“I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me, the door to the woods is the door to the temple.”

– Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver said she needed the natural world to be a poet.

I need it to survive.

My relationship with nature has saved me over and over again. When I am sick, when I am angry, when I am scared or hurt or sad, spending time outdoors with the trees over my head and the living soil under my feet brings me back into balance, physically and mentally. It heals me, lifts me up, makes me whole again. My life is so undeniably connected to the rhythms and beats of the natural world because, like all living beings, I am a part of it. That connection over a lifetime has built a deep and unwavering respect – a reverence for all of it.

Fall colors decorate our woods down by the creek

In our family, Sundays have almost always been sort of a day of reverence out in nature. When Mr. EndlessSeeker and I first got married, we would spend our Sunday mornings hiking a trail, slogging through a swamp, or canoeing a blackwater river. The tradition continued after our son was born – we had him in the swamp when he was just six weeks old. These were mornings devoted to family, to quiet observation, and to building reverence – deep and respectful relationships – with each other and with the trees, flowers, birds, fish, insects, soil, sunshine, water and all that these sacred places and beings had to offer us. After retirement, our Sunday morning wanderings near home turned into daily wanderings all across the country – through forests, on top of mountains, down rivers and streams, along the shores of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, over meadows and deserts. Every step along the way energized our spirits, deepened our love and respect for nature, and connected us more fully to each other and the Earth.

Now, decades later (and amid a pandemic), our daily wanderings of reverence are more often confined to our little homestead. Yet, the impact is no less profound. A short walk around the yarden or down to the creek reveals more life-affirming activity and generates more respect and hope than almost anything else I do these days. On this particularly beautiful, sunny Sunday, I wandered to our pollinator garden to visit some of the last fall-blooming flowers. I was completely bedazzled by the beauty, the bugs, the blooms, and the bold brilliance of interactions going on there.

A skipper lands on the last purple coneflower blooming in the afternoon sun

Just look at that color, the shapes, the bristly stem, the chewed petals, the form and function, the interspecies interaction, the hidden and revealed stories – it’s marvelous!

One of the last-to-bloom fall flowers in our pollinator garden is boneset. It’s a beautiful 4-ft.-tall plant with paired opposite leaves that connect at the stem, providing a perfect v-shaped tray for pooling rainwater. The flowers are fuzzy, white clusters, not too showy, but still pretty, and they have a wonderful sweet scent. Perhaps because of the scent or maybe just because they are one of the last flowers to be blooming so prolifically this time of year, the pollinators were gathered there in great numbers and variety today. At one point I counted five species of bees, four species of wasps, two species of skippers, and two species of beetles on one boneset plant all at the same time. It was a smorgasbord of insects, all devouring the nectar of these beautiful fall flowers. Below is a sampler from today’s boneset flowers:

Thread-waisted wasp on boneset
Lady beetle tucked into the boneset flowers
A green bee (fly?) on boneset flower
A skipper enjoying the boneset nectar
A pair of bees scramble across the boneset
The climbing aster is just beginning to bloom – a riot of stars among the fading light of autumn

In most parts of the pollinator garden, the blooms are starting to fade, but are no less spectacular.

The goldenrod brightens the edges of the woods
Milkweed pods burst with seeds – a work of art!
In the shadier part of the pollinator garden, a blue mistflower remains bright and hardy
Near the edge of the woods , a ray of sunshine pokes through the trees to shine on one of the still-blooming blanketflowers

Each bloom, each insect, each buzz of interaction helps me see the world with new eyes and a hopeful, grateful, deeply respectful heart – reverence.

What (or who) did you feel deep respect for today?


  1. What a beautiful statement, Deb. I feel much the same. I wish that we could spread that worldview far and wide.

  2. I always appreciate the beauty of your writings Deb and this is another one that touches my heart and soul. Nature has also helped me throughout life even though I had a bit of a late start making that connection. This is one of the reasons I feel it’s so important to connect children to the wonders of nature at an early age. Great job getting your son connected at 6 weeks!

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