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Back to Nature at Ohio’s Ecology Centers

There’s something delightfully hands-on about a visit to an Ecology Center.

When I traveled for my first board meeting as a member of the Office of Founded Ministries team, I found myself on the ground floor of the big red barn at Crown Point Ecology Center in Akron, Ohio, petting a barn cat while marveling at the many baskets stuffed full of fresh-picked produce for the Community Supported Agriculture program. During the annual Taste of Earth event, the dinner was spread under an outdoor tent, and before the meal, I walked with colleagues along the thriving garden beds of berries and cherry tomatoes.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending two workshops at Shepherd’s Corner in Columbus, Ohio--after sipping delicious tea made from herbs grown in the gardens on site during the first workshop, we all got to visit the raised beds ourselves and pluck fragrant lambs ear and mint leaves from the stem to feel and to smell. At the second workshop, we picked and arranged tufts of dyed sheep wool and felted them together using soap and water and a little elbow grease, creating wool acorns and fall leaves. It was a two-fold celebration of nature, both fauna and flora! And on that day, Maggie the llama and the flock of sheep were out and about in the pasture to greet visitors as we arrived.

It can be so easy to forget, pushing a shopping cart with a squeaky wheel through the produce aisle underneath the fluorescent lights of the grocery store, that the chilled strawberries in the plastic punnets were once growing on a vine close to the soil, under the care of the sun and the rain. It can be so easy to forget, as we cross items off to-do lists under the florescent lights at work, as we sit in cars and buses commuting home, as we bustle about our air-conditioned houses, that we are creatures under the care of the Creator, too, made for enjoying breaths of fresh air, the crunch of vegetables and the sweetness of fruit, the feeling of the sun on our skin.

As we enjoy the gifts of modern civilization, the household conveniences and the medical innovations that offer us more time, let us enjoy that time. Marvel at the wool sweater you’re wearing to fend off the winter cold: it was once the coat of a sheep. Marvel at the coffee you brew in the morning: the beans were picked and processed by the hands of another, across many miles, perhaps even an ocean. May we honor the animals, the plants, the fellow human beings, the whole ecosystems that have worked to provide us with the day-to-day items we take for granted.

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