A theological reflection on "Hiking Day" by Anne and Lizzy Rockwell, an illustrated book about a young girl experiencing nature for the first time.
A Theological Reflection on “Hiking Day”:
Anne Rockwell’s “Hiking Day” captures the peace and serenity found in nature. As the family begins their hike, the young girl observes her surroundings. She thinks to herself, “The minute we step onto the trail, we are surrounded by tall trees. We can’t see sky. The ground is covered with leaves and ferns. It looks like the inside of my mother’s terrarium. It is so quiet. I can hear my sneakers crunching the ground.”
I witnessed God at a waterfall in Ponca, Arkansas. I was 17-years-old, about to enter my senior year of high school, and I had never taken the time to pray and meditate surrounded by God’s creation in its rawest form. This small hour of peace was bookended by chaos. I was facing large, intimidating decisions and conflicts with my faith. Much like the young girl in Hiking Day, I was far along a secluded path, the dense grove of trees blocked my view of sky, and it was so quiet all I could hear was the sharp intake of water as it swan dived from rock into the chatty stream below. I’m not sure what it was, but I felt intensely close to God, in a way that I had not in a very long time. It was important to learn in my young life about the ways we can talk to God in nature.
These experiences in nature can alter our perception of the world and even our perception of God. Existing in these spaces, taking a walk to encounter God, can mold and change our path. Taking a hike is not solely a physical exercise, it’s an exercise in faith, spirituality and spiritual rest.
Interested in finding a hike near you? Find a park here.
The United Methodist Social Principles call for United Methodists to advocate for “the preservation of old-growth forests and other irreplaceable natural treasures, as well as preservation of endangered plant species.” (Social Principles ¶160.A). As Christians, we are met with the call to protect God’s creation. Part of that responsibility is spending time in relationship with it.
About the Authors
Mother and daughter Anne and Lizzy Rockwell wrote and illustrated “Hiking Day,” a story about a family taking their daughter out to hike for the first time.
Anne Rockwell was born in 1934 in Memphis, Tennessee. Anne Rockwell says she grew to love and admire the American landscape by traveling throughout the country for much of her life. At the age of 18, Anne Rockwell was living on her own and taking art classes in New York City. By 1966, she was married with three children. Shortly after, the family moved to Old Greenwich, Connecticut to explore the seaside, sail, sketch and expand their creativity. By 1977, Anne Rockwell and her husband Harlow Rockwell were collaborating on books full time. After his death, their daughter Lizzy Rockwell began assisting her mother with illustrations, eventually collaborating with her mother on “Hiking Day.”