Our Ecological Crisis is a Crisis of Relationships

Walk in the woods

Sr Susan fcJ shares two poems inspired by current insights on the theology of nature. Submitted to mark the Season of Creation.  

Leonardo Boff and Mark Hathaway write in Ecology and the Theology of Nature (Concilium 2018/5):

Humanity stands at a crossroads.  We can either continue on a path towards increasing exploitation, inequality, and destruction – threatening both human civilization and the entire web of life upon which we depend – or, as the Earth Charter Initiative reminds us, we may choose instead to ‘form a global partnership to care for the Earth and one another.’  While this crisis has economic, political, and technological dimensions, the threat of ecocide, at its root, is an ethical crisis.  More specifically, it is an ecological – not an environmental – crisis. Indeed, part of the problem is that we perceive an environment – or even nature – separate from ourselves when actually ‘the world that environs us, that is around us, is also within us. We are made of it; we eat, drink, and breathe it; it is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.’ (W. Berry. Sex, economy, freedom, and community: Eight essays, p. 34. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1993).[…] Home implies a sense of belonging, of being ‘a-part-of,’ rather than ‘apart-from,’ a community of living beings.[…] Our crisis is ecological because it is a crisis of relationships: the relationship of humans with each other; the relationship between humans and other living beings; and, ultimately, our relationship with the Creator who loves and sustains all and is actively present in creation.”

Some of these insights from Boff and Hathaway on the interconnection of all creation have taken root in me through the following two poems that I wrote a few years ago.


Trees in winter A Tree in Winter

I would love to be like a tree in winter,
Standing tall with arms outstretched,
Naked and transparent,
Exposing scars and blemishes without apology,
Revealing mystery and paradox.

I would love to be like a tree in winter,
Open and accepting
Of all the elements of nature,
Wind, snow, ice, sun,
Welcoming whatever the day brings.

I would love to be like a tree in winter,
Dancing to the wind’s tunes,
Waving joyfully to its companions
Waiting patiently in humility
To be clothed anew in springtime.

I am that tree in winter,
Standing tall with arms outstretched,
Bearing the wounds of time,
Waiting to be bathed in compassion and love,
To be clothed again in garments,
Not of my own choosing.

Susan Donohue fcJ


Walk in the woods

Wandering in the Woods

The path stretches long into the green wood
Silver birches gently embrace to form an arch
“You are welcome”, they nod
And I know God is in the journeying.

The trees are dressed in Easter attire
The wind nudges me onward.
She whistles, Alleluia, Alleluia
And I know God is in the singing.

The silver birch stands out among all the trees
God’s “work of art” bears the scars of time
Shedding outer bark makes room for deeper growth
And I know God is in the unfolding.

I see the dead trees among the living,
Releasing nutrients for tomorrow,
Welcoming the pain and mystery of transformation
And I know God is in the dying.

The tiny grass flowers twinkle in the sun
Stars by day, I wonder!
Star dust falls from heaven, they sing
And I know God is in the flowering.

The spider is busy webbing herself a home
Drawing strength from her center
Linking arms to withstand the storm
And I know God is in the connecting.

A butterfly spreads her playful wings
Revealing a blue velvet hue
She kisses each flower with a promise of hope
And I know God is in the birthing.

The rock sits firmly by the brook
Inviting the traveller to rest awhile
Listen to the silence is its refrain
And I know God is in the stillness.

The meandering brook speaks a familiar tongue
“If you only knew the gift” she cries
“Come drink from living springs”,
And I know God is in the thirsting.

The birds are rehearsing their evening song of praise,
Fine tuning their diverse voices to form a grand symphony.
The whole of creation is listening with glee.
And I know God is in the conducting.

As I look back upon the path
With heart-felt gratitude for this communion
Joy wells up within my being
And I know God is in the beholding.

A golden dancer draws my gaze to the West
She is waving farewell to all her companions
Enfolding the earth with warm embrace
And I know God is in the blessing.

Susan Donohue FCJ


Photos by Patrick Tomasso and by Kimberly Eschenbauch on Unsplash.