This past weekend I hiked a section of the Ouachita Trail with Emily. We walked through a forest of mixed pine and hardwoods—oaks, hickory, ash. The under story was filled with dogwoods and ground cover plants like may apples. Wildlife, for all we could tell was abundant.  We saw three species of snakes, a box turtle, several toads and frogs, and thrushes, warblers, tanagers, and other birds were plentiful. The forest, for all we could see, was healthy.

But then, four and a half miles from the end of our hike, we came across a gigantic pile of sawdust—fifteen feet high and about half the area of a soccer field. At one time, apparently, there had been a major sawmill operation here and yet now all that remained was the sawdust. From what we could tell, there wasn’t even a logging road leading to the pile—the forest had grown around it. Judging from the size of the trees, this forest was fifty to sixty years old. Before then, this area had been clear cut and run through the mill. Now that history was mostly invisible except with careful observation.

Creation can flourish again
Creation, even after much abuse, can return and flourish

The sawdust pile gives me hope—it shows me that. This sentiment was perhaps best expressed by Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem “God’s Grandeur” where he writes:

…Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

It is easy to become discouraged in the work of resurrection, but we must remember that it has happened and is happening. God is doing the work—we must simply join it.

Ragan Sutterfield

Ragan Sutterfield (M.Div. Virginia Theological Seminary) is ordained in the Episcopal Church and serves a parish in his native Arkansas. is the author of 'This is My Body: From Obesity to Ironman, My Journey into the True Meaning of Flesh, Spirit and Deeper Faith', 'Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us',and the small collection of essays 'Farming as a Spiritual Discipline'. Ragan works to live the good life in partnership with his wife Emily and daughters Lillian and Lucia.

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