Sometimes, when I am staring out the living room window and hear the birds sing happily from the swampy area by my home, I forget, for a moment, that there is a pandemic, and that I, along with millions of others, am at home until further notice. I think of how nature continues to move in its cycles, not realizing that the global economy is suffering and that people are dying. Jasper and Emily, and Ralphy and Ramona, who are the birds who have become my friends, go on with their little lives, oblivious to the changes. They are simply grateful that I am at home to serve them peanuts daily.
It is not a fair comparison, but survivors of the Holocaust also noticed that nature is blissfully unaware of global events. I remember reading their accounts of grueling days, and despite the particular horrors they witnessed, beautiful days in spring and summer often distracted them, causing them to pause and marvel at the earth before quickly recalling the realities at hand.
A long time ago, I read an account like this in Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl describes his conversation with a woman who would die soon:
This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.” Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.” Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. “I often talk to this tree,” she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. “Yes.” What did it say to her? She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here-I am here-I am life, eternal life.”
I often wonder about this woman’s experience and recall the verses in Scripture that talk about the tree of life, and how there is only one such tree. I wonder, too, if this was a moment of nature speaking of the existence of God (Job 12:7-10). Did the woman encounter God because she marveled at the life and hope and perfection in nature that reveals the Creator? I will never know, but I hope that through some miracle she understood the meaning behind the chestnut tree. I hope she believed the truth and encountered the hope in chaos, who is Jesus Christ.