Nature might be spontaneous, mostly I am not.

by | Sep 19, 2022 | Dogs & Other Creatures, Faith, Nature | 10 comments |

Spontaneous insects

A spontaneous reaction: hundreds of angry hornets, acting on instinct to protect their nest. But it was the landscape crew that needed protection. They had cut down a dead tree along the walking trail above the driveway and discovered the tree was occupied. As the crew quit the site, I grabbed my phone and called our exterminator.

The next day, the exterminator arrived and said, “The hornets entered the tree through a knothole and hollowed out the tree. Since the tree fell on that knothole, it’s going to be a little tricky killing the hornets. Tell the landscape crew not to cut until I come back next week to make sure the hornets are no longer active.”

I had planned to mulch the trail beside the hornet-infested tree. Instead, I turned to other outside projects, mulching the slope above the driveway and weeding.

Spontaneous vegetation

“My name is Carole, and I like to weed.” That was my self-introduction at the beginning of a writers’ workshop five years ago. My enjoyment has not waned, especially with regards to stilt grass, spontaneous, invasive, easy to pull.

“Weeding is walking around with my eyes and ears open, my nose and sense of touch, too,” I wrote in that post five years ago. “I observe where plants like to grow—both cultivated and volunteers—whether they are struggling or blooming, and when. Nearby rustling in the woods signals the presence of deer, a squirrel or some other creature. Drama? Fence lizards sun themselves on the rocks of the meadow path then dart onto a tree and disappear, camouflaged on the bark.” 

Do you see the false sunflower, peeking out of the field of stilt grass? This week, this week, those invasive grasses will be gone. That’s my intention. Nothing spontaneous about that.

Spontaneous animals

Walking my neighbor’s dogs, Slick and Curly, along the mountain road to the turnaround, as I often do. Since I can only handle two large dogs on leash, Cato runs free, up the slope above the road and down the ravine below. This time in the ravine, he bellowed; he’d found something to chase. Slick and Curly whined their desire to join. 

At the top of the hill, Cato reappeared. He ran across the road in front of our neighbor’s house and barreled down the ravine below the turnaround. Slick and Curly pulled hard at their leashes. I struggled to hold them. After a tug on their training collars and verbal corrections, they settled, and we continued our walk. Cato, having been outfoxed, soon joined us.

Attentive to Slick and Curly, I hadn’t seen what Cato was chasing. But it was indeed a fox, our neighbor told me later, making a beeline to protect itself, like the hornets. In this spontaneous encounter, Cato had, indeed, been outfoxed.

Spontaneous humans

I understand the natural tendency, the spontaneous impulse to protect—I’ve done it myself. But here’s the deal with spontaneity: it’s often selfish. This from Thomas Merton’s Contemplative Prayer:

 “When we seem to possess and use our being and natural faculties in a completely autonomous manner, as if our individual ego were the pure source and end of our own acts, then we are in illusion and our acts, however spontaneous they may seem to be, lack spiritual meaning and authenticity.”

And yet, there’s a way to be spontaneous and spiritual. This from Sharla Fritz’s God’s Relentless Love: A Study of Hosea:

“The One who created us in His image and gave Himself up so we could live with Him forever asks us to simply receive His love. When we do that, all of the wonderful spiritual practices and works of service will come spontaneously.” 

In Him, we are unselfish and spontaneous in protecting others, growing, seeking the One who loves us.

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  1. aschmeisser

    Henry acts before much thought;
    he’s a puppy, after all,
    but I really think he ought
    to chew upon a rubber ball
    rather than on my bare arm,
    which is rather scarred these days;
    he means not to cause me harm,
    that’s just how a puppy plays.
    He’s eighty pounds if he’s an ounce,
    and so his jaws are pretty strong,
    and when toward me I see him bounce
    I admit I kinda long
    for him to find a bone to gnaw;
    my arm is getting pretty raw.

    Henry’s a seven month old Pit Bull, profoundly deaf, and wonderful with dogs and cats. He just likes to chew on me, is all.

    • Carole Duff

      I’ll bet Henry is a good boy — most of the time:-) Thank you for your fun poem! -C.D.

  2. K.L. Hale

    Beautiful post, Carole. 💛

    • Carole Duff

      Thank you, Karla, and God bless you! -C.D.

      • K.L. Hale

        You’re welcome, C.D. God bless you!

  3. Lee Ann L.

    I am not sure why but the section on Spontaneous humans invoked a memory of my father thrusting his arm in front of me in the car every time he had to brake hard. I grew up and he stopped doing this. However, He did this when I was an adult riding with him and after the danger passed, we both looked at each other and laughed. I guess I was always forever a little girl to him. Anyway, I enjoyed reading this post.

    • Carole Duff

      Ah, Lee Ann, thank you for sharing that memory!

    • shauna

      What a fun memory! Once when my husband and I had not been married very long, I did the same thing to him—I hit the brakes and threw my arm out across him. Well, sort of. My hand landed on his chest. He had his seat belt on, of course, but he found this hilarious, because of course my hand would not have held him back at all!

  4. shauna

    Love this post! (I liked the title before I even read your essay.) Most of the time I prefer to have things planned…nature and life laugh at that, of course, and I truly think God has a sense of humor…

    • Carole Duff

      I, too, think God has a sense of humor… and we were created in His image. Thank you for sharing yours, Shauna.


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