February and Radical Relationality


For many people February is a month to just tolerate. I hear comments like this - the holidays are over, and there are no festivities to carry us onward; the weather is horrible, and often there’s slush on the ground; the days are still too short. (Imagine several frown emojis here.)

This is surely not the perspective of a spiritual ecologist! In February so many good things are happening: groundhogs emerge from hibernation and start breeding; great horned owls are already incubating their eggs; northern cardinals sing on sunny days; maple sap is flowing best right now; large flocks of robins appear; chorus frogs begin their raspy songs; and possum young are born and climb into their mothers’ pouch. What if we trusted the movement of the natural world and aligned our daily lives with it instead of bemoaning what some consider bad weather and a month to be left behind?


I was recently introduced to a way of life that opens the door to this kind of relationship. The Norwegian word friluftsliv, translated free air living, is a pillar of Norwegian culture and proof that mindset transforms the way we experience our world. Friluftsliv is a lifestyle and philosophy, defining what it means to be Norwegian. It focuses on being outdoors whatever the weather, believing there is no bad weather; only bad clothing. It calls us to pay attention to the elements and to appreciate where we are in space and time. It helps us develop a sense of place where we are comfortable and at home.


What we believe truly transforms our experience. For so long we have believed that we are separate from the living world. Above it. In control of it. Conquerors of it. We cling to the built environment to avoid any kind of discomfort or inconvenience. We even pray to God to change the weather to our liking!


“Imagine ourselves not as standing aloof and distant from the world, but caught up into, transformed by, the intimate presence of the living world within and around us. Imagine a profound and lasting intimacy with the living world, with our own embodied selves, and with the Spirit who lives and breathes among us.” These words by Douglas Christie encourage the kind of radical relationality one needs to become Norwegian in practice, if not in fact.


Christie’s words call to my mind a quote from Laudato Si where Pope Francis comments that “…human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” This is truly radical relationality and a call to open ourselves to the immensity of Divine Mystery in our most local experience of the universe. (Thanks to Douglas Christie for the concept of radical relationality in his book Blue Sapphire of the Mind.)


The picture at the beginning of this reflection was taken at La Vista’s online Winter Solstice Celebration on a cold evening on December 19th. Lovely Mariah decorated herself as a star and delighted all who were virtually present by going outdoors under the light of the moon for the ritual turning of the sun staff. What a radical expression of alignment with the Winter season and expression of fritluftsliv. Thank you to Mariah and her partner and photographer Sean!

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La Vista Ecological Learning Center

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Godfrey, IL 62035

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A Ministry of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate