Natural beauty is in abundance in Ecuador. The country is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, teeming with life in every direction. Plants and animals of many kinds flourish here thanks to the unique climate. “The land closest to the sun” also has incredibly variable terrain, from the warm Pacific coast to the Andes mountains to the lush Amazon to the east. I have been able to spend a lot of time in nature over the past month, and as such I have been thinking more about the value of nature in my life.
Every day on my way to school, I make sure to take a long look behind me at the mountain, Ruku Pichincha, that marks the western edge of the city of Quito. Ever since I arrived here, I have been constantly struck by the beauty of this mountain and how the city rises to meet it before acquiescing at its dark green slopes. The simultaneous contrast and harmony between the white boxy buildings and the lush peak always take my breath away. Wherever I am, I can look to the west and see the periphery of the city and this beautiful mountain. On rainy days, the darkest clouds I have ever seen creep over the summit and spill over into the city below. On clear days, the green and tan mountaintop complements the bluest of skies. On good days, bad days, and every day in between, the mountain is a constant, unmoving presence overlooking this busy city.
Of course, nature outside of the city has also been a memorable part of my time here. Spending a few days in the Amazon rainforest several weeks ago was an experience I won’t soon forget. The darkness under the canopy of trees hundreds of feet tall, the thrill of floating down the river on a raft of balsa wood, and falling asleep listening to rainfall were snapshots of a trip that brought me closer to nature than I have been in a long time. I wanted to bottle the earthy air and breathe it for the rest of my life.
And so it was only fitting that in the first reading for that Sunday, Isaiah writes of seraphim crying out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord… All the earth is filled with His glory” (Is 6:2). Naturally, I heard it in Spanish: “Santo, santo, santo es el Señor… Su gloria llena toda la tierra.” I was in a small brick church in a small town where we were staying. There were six other people at the Mass I attended. The celebrant did all of the preparation before Mass, all of the singing, and was the only Eucharistic minister. He asked the meager congregation for lectors when the time came for the readings. The doors were kept open the whole time, and so there were three stray dogs who kept coming in and out of the church, but no one really minded or tried to shoo them away. The forest provided a soundtrack of gentle noise that served as a nice interlude between the simple songs we sang.
It was undoubtedly one of the simplest Masses I have ever attended. There was no choir, no stained-glass windows, and not even ten people showed up. But it was one of the most beautiful Masses I have ever attended. Everyone sat close to each other, even to me, the gringa who stuck out like a sore thumb and definitely did not know all of the responses in Spanish. The priest’s voice, leading us in song, was rich and deep and encouraged everyone to join in. The open doors felt like an invitation to anyone outside to join at any moment. With the nature that surrounded me, I truly felt that the glory of the Lord filled the earth.
It is so easy to go about my day and never appreciate the beauty of God’s creation in the little things, or the big things, that surrounds me all the time. I pray that I may live every day recognizing God’s glory in the beauty of the earth. Whether it is in a massive mountain in the city or a tiny church in the Amazon, “su gloria llena toda la tierra.”