I apologize to my merry band of faithful readers for not posting for a bit. I have been away, with limited time to write, and limited access to the internet (not a bad thing). I took this last week, without much aforethought before students descend upon our humble campus and classes begin, to help my brother and his father-in-law build a shed (which was more like a small, one room house, and will in the end be quite splendid) for a couple of days. Then I spent two days exploring a bit of the Bruce Peninsula, hiking some of the most scenic sections of the Bruce Trail, and swimming in the glorious, cerulean and pristine waters of Georgian Bay, with azure sky above. As I floated off one rocky beach, I was thinking, one could scarcely get closer to paradise, on a natural level.
Two thoughts come to mind as I return back to ‘reality': Building something from scratch, like a humble shed, instead of buying a resin-type made-in-China from a hardware store and plonking it down, is an immensely satisfying experience. Aristotle was well aware of this, as he made clear in his Poetics, a title derived from the Greek verb ‘poieo‘, to ‘create’ or to ‘make’. Aristotle saw ‘poetry’, in the broad sense of any intellectual, creative activity, as one of the highest activities of Man (besides contemplation). There is more to ‘poetry’, therefore, than what we now would consider ‘poetry’ (rhyming, or at least metrical, verse). We find poetry in any creative endeavour: writing, drawing, drama, music, fashion, film or, yes, even building sheds. The more we pour ourselves into any creative work, by definition, the more poetic it is. After all the work I have seen on the building with which I began this paragraph, what a poetic shed it shall be.
Of course, the greatest ‘poet’ is the Creator Himself. This struck home to me, as I pondered the vistas over Georgian Bay, the limestone cliffs plunging into the clear water, with the waves lapping the shore, the limitless forests, the crisp, clean air. G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the least explored area is one’s own backyard. There is nothing wrong, and much that is right, with travelling occasionally far afield, to broaden one’s horizons, but there is also much to be said for experiencing the beauty of one’s own area. And I would highly recommend to readers to explore some of the natural wonders of Ontario, not least the Bruce Peninsula, but also our innumerable lakes, rivers, trails, views found within a few hours of where you are reading this, many of them only lightly touched by human civilization (and this applies to those of you, wherever you may live, for all of Canada has its own particular scenery).
Poetry and nature are two very profound and effective ways of approaching God, especially if accompanied by the most direct way, prayer. For, if
all creation shows forth the glory of God, and the firmament declares His handiwork
so too, all of our creations, including all of our moral decisions which, as John Paul II taught, create who we ourselves are and will become, should also declared God’s glory, in the end in which all of us are called to share.