Despite the ticks and the bowhunters I went up into the woods the other day, simply because I missed them. Near the end of the hike, I recognized I had been thinking a type of thought I had not recently had. I wondered if the last instance had also been the last time I walked in the woods. Rough estimate, yes. Had the environment encouraged me down certain trails of contemplation? In this case it was the whole life trajectory of near relatives, some still alive, some deceased, but there are other topics that I would include with it in mood, that I had to admit “I haven’t thought about those in a while.”
If place can so strongly influence our thoughts it suggests that setting aside areas as sacred is valid, and that we should make some effort to do so. In my case some typically sacred areas leave me cold. Outdoor chapels at summer camp are much admired and camp people seem to feel strongly about them, but that never worked for me, not as a child and not now. I worry that “natural” settings may actually distract people from contemplating God to contemplating only a few aspects of Him, which could lead to regarding those aspects as most important. Worship spaces of architectural beauty are mixed for me. Some work and some don’t. Starting off on a journey alone, by car or on foot, is usually a time of worship for me, as is completion. I am certain that would not be true on a bicycle.
Areas of seriousness or contemplation may not be enough. I suspect those imitations are frequently used by intellectual folks, who are pleased to be pulled out of their daily grind into deeper thoughts, equating that with the spiritual and worshipful. Yet worship is sometimes intellectually deep, sometimes not (as in the Cider and Carols video of “Joy to the World,” below. Wonderfully valid. Not much intellect at that particular moment, nor should there be.) We should be intentional about what places we choose to put ourselves in. Location may be a prayer posture of a sort.