If you’re looking for ways to connect to Creation and the Creator during these strange times, consider engaging in one or more of the following suggestions. (If you do all of them, please let us know and we’ll send you some sort of prize! … Might be our undying respect, but that’s certainly worth something!).

1. Plant a Garden (or a few containers on your balcony). Why? Well, obviously, you will continue to need food. And because taking a wee inert, seemingly dead thing and burying it in the ground with the faith that it will some day spring forth into new green, fruit-producing life is a very practical act of hope! And don’t we all need some hope right about now? Consider ordering seeds from an online source like West Coast Seeds or another preferred source (but, be aware that lots of people are ordering seeds right now, so be patient with delivery times :)).

2. Buy A Rocha veggies. If you’re in the Vancouver area, consider signing up for A Rocha’s CSA and receive a bin of farm fresh vegetables from your fine friends down at the Brooksdale Environmental Centre. We are seeding lots of lovely lettuces, radical radishes, and beautiful broccoli at this very moment in anticipation of feeding lots of hungry mouths from June – October. We are also keeping abreast of health guidelines and keeping in step with all the recommended safety/hygiene protocols so that we’ll be able to provide the healthiest, safest produce for you. For more information visit our CSA page HERE.

3. Become a neighbourhood naturalist! Since social distancing has many of you tethered to home, you probably won’t be adding any new bird species to your “life list” (alas, tis not the season for travelling to Baffin Island for a sighting of the Cackling Goose, but there are plenty more melodious birds in your own backyard that are so deserving of your attention). Consider using the wonderful iNaturalist app as a way of recording your sightings of everything from birds to frogs to flora and contribute to a worldwide conservation database that our very own A Rocha conservation team is using in their own studies. Look to the end of this blog for a short cheat sheet on how to use this app. **

4. Pay attention to the Sun. Connect to the bigger rhythms of creation by watching the sunrise and sunset….every day! You’d be surprised how reorienting this simple act can be. Studies have shown that seeing the sunrise and sun set (for at least 5 min outside preferably) not only regulates your bodily circadian rhythms which helps with better sleep, but also activates various hormones in the brain that help reduce symptoms of depression. (Right!?!) But don’t take our word for it, check out the work of Dr. Huberman and his colleagues at Stanford University. You can find him on Instagram at @hubermanlab.

5. Give a financial gift (no matter how small) to your favourite environmental or food security organizations (if that’s A Rocha, then, hurray and thank you! If it’s some other group like your local food bank, then, wonderful! All boats rise on the same tide!).

6. Connect with God in Creation. Consider participating in a “Creation Contemplation.” Here’s how it works:

Take a walk outside or just sit and observe what is around you. Notice the various aspects of creation — the sky, the sun, clouds, trees, plants, flowers, grass, ground, rocks, animals, birds, people.

Let yourself be attracted to one thing (e.g. clouds, trees, rocks, etc).

Use the method of visio divina to contemplate this one thing:

  • Spend time observing it, but not judging it — noticing things about it that attract your attention. Touch, smell, taste or listen to it if you can. When your mind wanders, return your attention gently to this thing and continue to observe.
  • Consider what memories or emotions are stirred by this encounter with creation. Be with those memories or emotions and explore them.
  • Finally, notice what the Spirit’s invitation is through this encounter. What is revealed to you about God’s love? About yourself? About how God has created and is still creating?
  • Talk to God as you would a friend about this.

7. Ponder Poetry. Here’s a good creation-y one that’s a riff on Jesus’s admonition to consider the birds of the air and flowers of the field:

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

For a lovely conversation between Berry and Bill Moyers where our fave poet reads this very poem and basically comes off as the most sane, wise and humane person on planet earth, check out THIS link.

8. Connect with us online. We’d love to hear from you about how you’re caring for creation in these trying times. Find us on Facebook and Instagram @arochacanada and let us know what you’re up to!

9. Help the pollinators. Consider turning a corner of your yard or balcony into a pollinator habitat (the bumblebees will thank you!). You could do this by building a mason bee hotel, plant native flowers and herbs that attract pollinators, and provide water (like with a bird bath) for drinking and bathing. For instructions and ideas check out THIS helpful website.

10. Stargaze. In keeping with the sunrise/sunset theme, turn your eyes toward the heavens and drink in your daily dose of awe. Brush off your Astronomy 101 skills and get reacquainted with the night sky. There are lots of wonderful apps that can tell you what stars and constellations you’re looking at. (We recommend “StarWalk2.”) Your soul and nervous system will thank you for the gifts of fresh air and a new wonder-filled perspective.

** How can you use iNaturalist?

1. Create an iNaturalist account at https://www.inaturalist.org/signup

2. Download the app – search for it in the app store

3. Go outside and observe. The app is pretty self explanatory. Click “Observe” to take a photograph and “What did you see?” to look for species ID suggestions. iNaturalist allows you to upload multiple photos of an observation, which is helpful for capturing different parts (e.g., leaves, flowers, stems) or angles. Then “share” the observation with the iNaturalist community. Even if you are not able to identify your observation, others will see it and suggest identifications.

4. Peruse the iNaturalist website and check out what’s being observed around you. Click on “Explore” and zoom into your location on the map. You can also make comments on others’ observations and add your own species ID if you feel confident, which helps bump observations up to “Research Grade.” iNaturalist works because of crowdsourcing, so it’s great if you can participate in that aspect of it along with sharing your own observations with the online community.

5. Check out A Rocha Canada’s newly minted umbrella project. Encompassed within this overarching project are projects from Brooksdale Environmental Centre and Cedar Haven Eco-Centre. Here you can see what creatures we have been finding on our properties and at A Rocha sponsored events in BC and Ontario. You can also check out A Rocha’s Boreal Ecology Centre project in Manitoba. If you live locally, you can request to join any of these projects and contribute your own observations whenever you visit our site.

6. Stay tuned – we are planning to hold a plant discovery week challenge in May (think friendly competition – who can observe the most species?), which you can participate in from wherever you are (your backyard, local parks, etc.). We’ll be sending out more information on this in the coming weeks.

Click HERE for a guide on the iNaturalist blog for how to use it when stuck at home.

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