“He had perhaps been bruised too often. The peace of the vast aloof scrub had drawn him with the beneficence of its silence. Something in him was raw and tender. The touch of men was hurtful upon it, but the touch of the pines was healing. Making a living came harder there, distances were troublesome in the buying of supplies and the marketing of crops. But the clearing was peculiarly his own. The wild animals seemed less predatory to him than people he had known. The forays of bear and wolf and wild-cat and panther on stock were understandable, which was more than he could say of human cruelties.”
When I read this text with my students, our response for a time was silence.
It was one of those golden moments where our souls met in wordless communion with the Holy Spirit and one another.
It is no wonder that Penny Baxter wanted his son, Jody, to encounter nature’s beneficence too. And encounter it he did. The author of The Yearling, Majorie Kinnan Rawlings, details Jody’s encounters with such eloquence that the reader aches with nostalgia, despite never having been to the swamps and springs of Florida. And these encounters leave marks long into life. For example, after one spring day in April spent beside the water’s edge, Ms. Rawlings describes Jody:
He pictured Old Slewfoot, the great black outlaw bear with one toe missing, rearing up in his winter bed and tasting the soft air and smelling the moonlight, as he, Jody, smelled and tasted them. He went to bed in a fever and could not sleep. A mark was on him from the day’s delight, so that all his life, when April was a thin green and the flavor of rain was in his tongue, an old wound would throb and nostalgia would fill him for something he could not quite remember. A whip-poor-will called across the bright night, and suddenly he was asleep. (emphasis mine)
We have each known the bruising of which Penny Baxter speaks. Who is not raw and tender in places? Who of our students hasn't been bruised? What student may come to class having recently experienced a “troublesome” part of life, or even the predatory nature of someone close? As teachers, we cannot always know. But how would our reverence for each subject grow knowing that the Holy Spirit knows each bruised heart and speaks through each text, sometimes in profound communion?
Would we be more earnest to not pass over the ideas in nature study, poetry, or math each day? Would we be more attuned to the “beneficence of silence” in our response time?
“From the flower in the crannied wall to the glorious firmament on high, all the things
of Nature proclaim without ceasing, ‘Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty.’ ”
Illustration by Wyeth, N. C. (Newell Convers), 1882-1945