Gifts from the River

By Tracey Horan, Burren Study Week Participant
August 11, 2011

A recurring theme during the Burren Study Week has been the dichotomy we experience today between science and religion and the way this prevents humans from playing a more creative role in nature. As John Feehan has mentioned throughout the week, one purpose of experiences like this is to blur the lines between “You” and “Us,” to breech the boundary between ground-dwelling creatures and humans, not for the sake of conquering something, but to bring greater unity through understanding.

I was reminded of this sentiment today during our outdoor excursion. We had split up in teams to collect macro-invertebrates for observation, and our group ventured a bit downstream where we encountered a house on the riverbank. We had been at work wading in our “Wellies” (Wellington high-water boots) for a while when a young girl emerged – seemingly from the brush – and began to ask what we were doing, eager to join in the stream stomping. No more than seven or eight years old, the girl shared an amazing amount of knowledge on the plants and swimming creatures in and around the river. She seemed very proud of her extensive fishing experience, and was sharing tips with us as we tried to catch critters in our net. I asked her if she had ever caught any fish, to which she responded that she had caught many. But she told me that she always threw them back because they don’t belong to her. When I asked her who they belong to, she responded, “The river, I guess.” The wisdom of an eight-year-old – I think I’d like to be like her when I grow up!

During my short encounter with this young girl, I experienced a glimpse into the beauty of what happens when awe and understanding intertwine. Without much technical training or the motivation of any “stamp collecting,” scientific mentality, this girl was absolutely at home in and among her fellow river dwellers, and thrilled to share them with us. The sense of delighting in creation was contagious! I think if we aim to unite the efforts of scientific exploration and theology, we could use a bit of this innocent creativity that doesn’t see separation of disciplines but only opportunities for delightful union.