On Friday they told me they saw a beaver. They said it was on the shore right next to the trail where they stood. The skeptic in me thought, “maybe.” It was full day light, the beaver is nocturnal. My plan-stick with maybe. Their enthusiasm did not sway my opinion.
On Saturday my will weakened. “Could we go for a walk to see if the beaver is there?” was my request. It please me greatly when they said yes. All three of them showed eagerness both to go and to have me along. My skepticism vanished. You see the location of the beaver was in a backwater of a river. Yes, backwater, in a city park, in the capitol of North Dakota. The river was not any river, it was the longest river in the United States, the 2,300-mile-long Missouri.
A second incentive for this walk to the river was my motivation to observe how they would lead me across a busy city street and through blocks of a residential area before the park and the river.
In bright sunshine, the 4 of us started out. We cut westward through a coulee with water flowing through it. They spotted a pair of Mallard Drakes long before my eyes picked them out. Walking through a small grove of trees on the west edge of the coulee we heard a rooster pheasant crow. The 12-year-old boy conversations stopped. With delight, my eyes witnessed all three of them go into stealth mode. Again, my wise naturalist skills were eclipsed, one of the boys pointed out a pheasant slinking away. They spotted it first. These boys were good.
They led me directly to a pedestrian bridge that crossed the traffic filled street. The rest of the way they used cross walks and the sidewalk. It felt safe and comfortable. They did the same on the return trip. The boys were responsible. Sometimes three boys can think of unsafe things or become silly. There was none of that going or coming. We had not even come to the river and the walk with these three boys was remarkably pleasurable.
At the backwater, more joy came. My great privilege that morning was the company of three 12-year-old naturalists. They were interested in everything. They wanted me to get good photos. Tracks intrigued them. They listened when other pheasants crowed. They questioned what animals had made the tracks we observed. Then one of them did something few kids or adults would ever think of, he stepped over a track rather than destroy it with his foot. We witnessed Western Grebes fishing.
There were numerous reasons for happiness that morning. The maturity and responsibility of these three boys was one. The absolute thrill of seeing the respect and true interest in nature the three possessed another. Having conversations with three others who found everything on this sandbar of the Missouri river, fascinating. They were right about the beaver too. We didn’t see it this time. But two piles of fresh beaver scat and many chewed branches were clear evidence.
The boys and I got something else. We witnessed the power of God. We observed His divine nature in the beauty of the crowing pheasant calls and the dives of the grebes. They’d seen a fish in the water the day before. The mystery of fish in water exhilarated them. The four of us relaxed, stress fell away, our health strengthened.
Should we be surprised at the health-giving qualities available to everyone who goes outside? Why is the earth beautiful? Why do our eyes see color, our ears hear sounds equal to 10 musical octaves? Our three other senses add greater depth to any outside time. A man named David was both shepherd and king in his life. As shepherd he learned of the power and divine nature of God in creation. He wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1 God put health in nature.
Take a walk. Better yet, take some kids with you. Why is the earth so beautiful, so full of stimulating mystery which captives the minds of three boys and a grandpa? Because God made the earth for us. He made it out of love. He designed all of it for us. It is one of his gifts to us. His greatest gift is Jesus Christ and the eternal life His death on the cross provides. Could Jesus really overcome all our sins? He is powerful enough to make a world filled with beauty and mystery. We see it best when we go outside.