Inspiration from the Natural World
In their psalms of gratitude, the biblical poets describe a natural world that includes sheltering canopies. Biking in Northern Michigan on my summer vacation, the trees offered canopies of leaves that shaded and protected us from the hot summer sun. The psalmists’ concept of a sheltering canopy can extend from the natural world into our everyday lives, where a network of supportive friends and family might give us a sense of buffering and shelter from life’s storms.
We enjoyed perfectly clear weather up north, and I experienced awe at the canopy of stars spread out over Lake Leelanau. Cygnus the swan flew through the Milky Way in a spectacular firmament usually hidden by city lights at home. Scientists now confirm what the psalmists knew long ago—experiences of awe contribute to our well-being. Feelings of awe bring about greater humility, increase our sense of connection and generosity to others, and provide us the sense that time is more abundant. Awe also appears to sharpen our thinking and enhance our creativity.
Awe was in abundance on our vacation—in our midday vantage point atop a sand dune high above Lake Michigan, looking out at an endless horizon, as well as in the clear night sky. Awe can be found in our day-to-day lives as well—when we listen to a symphony, view a work of art, or read an awe-inspiring story. We can extend the benefits of awe by keeping a journal of our awe experiences, sharing them with others, or taking a pause at the end of the day to savor any moments of awe we experienced in the previous hours.
As we prepare for the new academic year, filled with many challenges and much still unknown, I invite you to notice who or what offers you a sense of shelter in this challenging time, and to consciously engage in and savor your moments of awe.