February 6, 2020Written by Natasha Juliana and Edited by Linda Jay

Can you see god in a flock of turkeys? I can. So much so that it makes me weep. Not the God of books or religions, but the god of everything – every rock, every bird, every blade of grass, every dew drop, every molecule that makes up the miracle of this planet and attests to the interconnectedness of all things. More than life itself. The miracle of Everything.

This week I’ve taken to walking up the hill to Paula Lane early in the morning as an opportunity to squeeze a little exercise and fresh air into a busy schedule. My destination was the new nature preserve. The sign says it is home to American badgers, mule deer, and grey fox, but what I see greeting the morning sun is a beautiful flock of wild turkeys, alternately roaming the field and then scratching through front yards. The males puff out their tails and act as crossing guards when the females want to move to the other side of the street, and the birds make their warbled calls across the divide. There is peace and simplicity and something unexplainably church-like in this moment, on the edge of development, where the paved ground breaks free into earth. And then humans barrel by this line in hunks of steel, music blaring, heaters on – protected, disconnected, machines. And I sit on the sidewalk and weep.

I’m not sure why this scene strikes me so hard – this juxtaposition of turkeys and SUVs. Perhaps it is a symbol of a larger disconnect that I cannot understand. Me, the atheist, seeing this god so clearly. Am I alone in this – this overwhelming feeling I get when I stop to watch the turkeys, or feel the expanse of the Milky Way, or smell the soil, or listen to the sound of rain? Am I alone in the sinking feeling I get when we talk of GDP and economic growth and the American Dream?

My soul wants to move beyond politics and capitalism and consumption to a reality grounded in gratitude and grace and compassion. This miracle of a planet we are blessed to belong to must hold more meaning than dollars and cents. Somewhere, deep down, below the surface of our daily grind, we must long to follow a leader who can inspire the great wisdom and clarity that will guide us back to the truth of what matters most. I pray for those leaders to come, but I fear we will not see them – our eyes locked on our screens, our thoughts on our bank accounts, and our hearts set on retirement. We will not be brave enough to question the current path and veer off into the unknown, despite its potential for greatness.

And twenty, thirty years from now, when the biome is collapsing and we realize we chose short-term profits and little luxuries over our children’s inheritance of this miraculous earth home, will we regret it? Will we wish we had chosen to follow a different leader down a different path – one that leads to a different kind of prosperity, based on an abundance of life, an expansion of equity, and a wealth of love? This is what I hear my god whispering through the wind – a warning, a prayer, my tear. I let it in and feel its truth…and then I shut it down and go back to work – business as usual.