Category Archives: Nature

I Am A Pantheist

My name is Sharon, and I’m a pantheist. My God is as vast as the Cosmos. It isn’t just about love, but runs the gamut of emotions and behaviors, “bad” and “good.” It’s about ticks as well as bluebirds, and hurricanes as well as gentle spring rains. But don’t get me wrong, love and forgiveness and compassion are vital. How could I think otherwise when I believe everything is connected and every creature has as much right to be here as I do? How can I be less than a warrior for justice for humans, other animals, the planet? Humans aren’t the only creatures to need love and touch to live and thrive and grow. Scientists tell us we’re made of star stuff…..think about that, stars! What more motivation do I need to try to act magnificently and morally and ethically? A supernatural being made up by the ancients doesn’t and simply can’t serve me nearly as well any more, and in truth, not at all.

It hasn’t always been easy to come right out and say that I don’t believe in the supernatural god that most of my family and neighbors believe in. Some people have fallen by the wayside because of my choice. I live in the rural south. God and church are important down here to community and family life and all the seasons of people’s lives. But is being a pantheist really a choice? To me, it doesn’t feel like it is. Technically, yes, I chose to join a pantheist group fifteen years ago, but being drawn to it, being immediately touched by it, being captivated by all that it is, I feel those things chose me rather than the other way around. I was Christian a long time ago, but I’m no longer that same person. I just know I can’t go back to those old ways and beliefs even if someone tried to make me. I can no more believe in needing to be “saved” by a sacrificial lamb on a cross than I can fly, regardless of the number of times a preacher shouts it from the pulpit. Saved from what? A hell I don’t believe in?

The American Humanist Association (which many Pantheists belong to) has a slogan “Good Without God.” I like that.  I don’t need a supernatural god in the sky keeping a record of my good and bad behavior or the threat of eternal damnation to live a life of integrity, honesty, and authenticity. I don’t need a supernatural god to remind me to be nice, courteous, or helpful. I do believe it’s up to us humans to discern our purpose in life, to give it meaning, to behave ethically. I do consider myself religious or spiritual, though, in the way of connecting to that something bigger than me, that something that inspires awe and reverence, in the way of seeing everything as sacred because life itself is such, in the way of celebrating and marking days like solstices and equinoxes, births and deaths, and participating in traditions.

My god speaks to me in the sweet smell of honeysuckle wafting through my window as I write this, coming in on the gentlest of breezes, but also last week when the lightning and heavy rains caused power outages and fallen trees. I can hear birds and the whir of a lawn mower in the distance. I never actually have to leave my house to hear and smell and see and feel delights that my god offers, though, of course, there’s so much more as I venture down the road and on to other places and people and experiences…..like an emergency room where things were whirling around for me as I nervously waited for test results, and people in green and blue uniforms were scurrying to make people feel better or at least give them answers, and equally in the sweet smile of my granddaughter as she says, “I lub you, Mimi.”

My god is vast. I stand in awe of the universe. I don’t want to compete with others on the size and power of our gods, though I feel some religions have boxed theirs in. Mine can never be. We are in different places, however that came to be, whatever mechanism within our brains and hearts is at work. I want to practice compassion and fight for justice so that all creatures live in safety with full bellies and warmth on cold days, able to love their families, that all people can find their purpose and live a life of dignity and self-love instead of loathing, and I want to share the God I see and experience through words and pictures of everyday life, how truly extraordinary it is, and how often we pass it by looking for that big super thing we think is going to be better and give us goosebumps. Looking at the mountains in the direction of South Carolina right now, getting a hint of wood smoke from down the road someplace, seeing the japonica bush almost up to the bottom of the window, these simple things give me goosebumps, and I’m just glad to be here to experience them.

My name is Sharon, and I’m proud to shout from the rooftops that I’m a pantheist. My God is as vast as the Cosmos. My God, indeed, is the Cosmos.

~Sharon

copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Stars

As a pantheist, I experience “God” all the time everywhere, but I don’t think anything makes me feel that connection (to everything really) quite as deeply or intensely as looking at a night sky full of stars. It kind of makes me feel big and small, special and insignificant all at the same time.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Bio for the Universal Pantheist Society

Back in April, I was honored to be elected to serve as an at-large member on the Board of Directors of the Universal Pantheist Society.  I’m not sure any other members even know.  When asked if I was interested, of course I said I was, but I realized I had no official credentials like some do, other than being a long-time pantheist and Society member.  Yet at the same time, I think that may be one of my strengths, for Pantheism is a path that’s for everyone and anyone who chooses it.  It doesn’t depend on credentials or a certain degree or title or income or education.  Anyway, here’s the bio that appears on their website.  It was something I wanted my friends and followers to know about because Pantheism is an important part of who I am, and the UPS is in turn an important aspect of my journey.  If you have an interest in Pantheism as well, I hope you’ll check out the UPS and consider joining up and help spread the word about it.  I’m glad to be a representative for them.

Sharon was born and raised in the mountains of western North Carolina and still resides in a small town within a short distance of both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the past, she was an avid camper and day hiker, but now most of her free time, when not working full-time as a Health Documentation Specialist, is largely spent baby-sitting her two young granddaughters and spending time with family and her three cats (at one point she was a volunteer for the local no-kill cat shelter). Her interests include Pantheism/deep ecology, working in her yard, genealogy (especially her Irish roots), writing, animal rights, and vegetarianism. Sharon learned about Pantheism back in 2002 and joined the Universal Pantheist Society, as well as spending several years as an active participant in the World Pantheist Movement, and helping form a local Pantheist group that met in Asheville, NC. One of her chief influences was “Accepting the Universe” by John Burroughs. Realizing the importance of connecting with other Pantheists, she began actively and regularly participating on the UPS websites, feeling its approach to pantheism best matches her own, summed up in the quote, “I believe in God, only I spell it N-A-T-U-R-E” (Frank Lloyd Wright). Sharon considers herself a voice for the everyday Pantheists who experience the simple pleasures of nature found in their own neighborhoods and backyards. Bird watching has become a new hobby, and she is a member of the National Audubon Society, as well as Friends of Animals. She has also written a blog for several years called The View From Raindrop Ridge, which is about living a simple pantheistic life in her beloved mountains.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Spring Morning

Easter eggs

I was just driving back from town, and I realized how beautiful this spring day is.  Nature is colorful like an Easter basket full of dyed eggs today.  The yards are getting so green.  There’s even green starting to pop out on the higher mountains.  Shrubs and bushes are yellow and dark pink and the trees white and a paler pink and, of course, the purple of the beautiful redbuds which are so plentiful.  Not to mention all the red, blue and blue-gray, brown, and bright yellow birds that greet me at the feeder.  This is what Easter is about for me anyway, Nature circling back into spring with new life in all its glory.  It makes me feel happy and hopeful and really alive. #Gratitude

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Looking Glass Rock

I live in a beautiful area.  This is Looking Glass Rock, near Brevard (in Transylvania County) in western North Carolina.  I can give you a few facts.  This picture was taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway on a visit to Pisgah Inn/Mount Pisgah area a few years ago (pisgah in Hebrew means peak).  Technically, this big rock is a pluton monolith with a granite face that reflects the sun, giving it its name.  It’s part of Pisgah National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains.  The national forest was established in 1916.  Hard to believe, but that’s when my grandmother was 6 years old.  She and her parents and siblings and cousins used to take Sunday rides and picnics around the Asheville area, according to what I’ve been told, and I can be pretty sure this was one of their destinations.

But for me, what’s wonderful about the mountains, including this magnificent rock, aren’t the facts, the scientific composition, though I’m glad those things are important to a lot of people, it’s the emotions that well up in me when I see a view like this or when I walk in the woods, along the rivers and creeks.  I was born and have lived in these mountains almost all my life.   In the big scheme of things, I haven’t spent a lot of days and nights away from them, and even when I have done so, or may in the future, they’re still always a part of me, my heritage, my ancestors, my very being.  The Appalachian mountains, the Balsams, the Parkway, the Smokies, and all the other mountain ranges and ridges around here are about relationships, trees and streams, waterfalls  and animals, and ancestors working hard on the land, many as farmers.  They’re about my own memories of hiking and canoeing in mountain lakes, watching the changing seasons, love and romance and heartbreak, having children here, always mindful of the mountains I live in and the distant ones I see every time I venture away from home or outside my front door.  They’re about births, but also deaths, and steep cemeteries, one separated by a flimsy fence from some friendly and curious cows, beloved parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents, laid to rest with their own memories and lives, much of which I’ll never know, but some related to me by my parents.  There are memories of being afraid, too, on a hike up a steep hillside running away from a mysterious-sounding creature, still unknown.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared.  Of Sunday drives and crossing through creeks that ran across the road, of watching for deer at dusk and being excited to spot a little family, climbing a fire tower and walking across a swinging bridge at the top of the world, watching falcons take off and hang gliders, too, camping and sometimes just sitting quietly shoulder to shoulder watching the sun set in glorious color.  Many of these people are gone from my life now, but in a sense they never really are gone, and the mountains tie so much of my life together.  They help define who we are, how we live, and how we feel, why we’re still here, why some of us never leave.  They’re our protectors, watching over us, full of mystery and light and darkness and teeming with life, often unseen, our comfort and our healing.  I’m walking in the steps of so many who came before me, which feels me with awe and respect, and those who will follow, and I hope they won’t simply settle for living in the mountains, for a job or even because it’s pretty, but instead let the mountains work their way into their hearts and live inside of them until they can’t ever really let them go, no matter where they may end up down the road, because I honestly believe they’ll be the better for it.

I look at these pictures of Looking Glass Rock and the surrounding mountains and remember the day I took them.   It was summer, but a storm blew up in the afternoon, and it was windy and chilly up there.  A friend of mine had ridden with me to Pisgah Inn to have lunch with a group of people we didn’t know but I had helped organize, Pantheists who wanted to get together and explore our area and share our pantheistic ideas and viewpoints.  The group carried on for several more months with fewer numbers and we had some nice times.   My friend and I eventually went our separate ways and he later died much too young from the debilitation of Parkinson’s disease.  So many bittersweet memories, and yet life goes on as these mountains, remaining ever big and strong and beautiful, remind us daily.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Compassion

As a pantheist, I’ve also become more interested in spiritual/deep ecology.  Joanna Macy is one of the spokespeople for that movement, and I wanted to share this quote from her:

“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.” — Joanna Macy

I agree with her. I think we have to feel deeply, even the “bad stuff,” for healing to truly begin, for changes to be made. I have spent a lot of time lately crying over what’s going on in terms of the environment, animals, etc., laws being passed, feeling sorrow and grief and yes, anger. But I don’t think sugar-coating things and seeing only the positive is really helpful, at least not in my experience. Compassion and feeling even the darker feelings, feeling someone’s or something’s pain, not always just the happy and joyous feelings, is part of living an authentic life, is part of connecting on a deeper level. Yes, I’ve been called a Pollyanna because I’m hopeful that things will change, and it’s true, I am hopeful much of the time, and I am joyous over the birds I see or the river I walk beside, but believe me, I spend plenty of time crying and ranting, too, and feeling heartbroken and even, for a short time, a bit hopeless. The two things, feeling the dark feelings and acknowledging them, while still holding out hope, aren’t mutually exclusive.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Sharing Wounda’s Journey

I share a lot of things on Facebook, but this video of Wounda’s journey is one of my favorites I’ve shared several times, if not my absolute favorite.  It’s so touching, and I cry every time I see it.  I think it’s incredibly important to share this video and the work of Jane Goodall.  She is a “hero” of mine, though that’s not a word I really use, but if anyone is, she is.  I love her gentle and kind and patient spirit and all she has done for these beautiful creatures over the years.    I hope you enjoy this video as much as I do.  Humans don’t own love and affection and connection.  They are qualities we share with the other creatures who inhabit this planet of ours.  I hope we never forget that they, too, play and sing, mourn and grieve, laugh and love, and are here in their own right, not to serve humanity.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Video courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute