In today's world, our relationship to the elements of nature is often dimmed, relegated somewhere to the far background of our awareness. St. Francis of Assisi lived life close to the ground, enmeshed in the natural world where he found the glories of God revealed. His ascetic lifestyle, physically rough, sharpened his appreciation of sensual reality, sublimated by him into mystical experience.
I always think of the 'Canticle of Creatures' as Francis of Assisi's swan song, summing up his incredible relationship to the natural world, and coming, as it does, at the end of his life, highlighting the central importance of nature in his spirituality. Written when he was frail and blind, he recalled the glories of Nature and their lessons for him throughout his life, identifying them, in his inimitably religious style, as images of the divine.
I wrote this paper during the months leading up to my own father's death at age eighty-five. He was a man who lived his life out-of-doors, most of it on the sea. I felt close to the elements through him. Eloi LeClerc, in his book,Canticle of Creatures, Symbols of Union, highlighted the elemental nature of Francis' imagery. I divided my treatment of the Canticle, sometimes known as 'The Song of Brother Sun,' into four parts according to the Four Elements of antiquity.
A lifelong student of metaphysics, I was just now discovering the incredible Carl Jung and his philosophy, which shed so much light on religion, spirituality and psychology. At this time, I was a theology student at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley (member of the Graduate Theological Union) and immersed in all things Franciscan, discovering new languages to express spiritual truth, enamored of Simone Weil, and others; my husband and I were exploring the high deserts of California east of the Sierra Nevada range, and in Nevada and Colorado, finding petroglyphs, deciphering ancient geological scripts. Somehow I was able to bring all of this together in 'Nature Symbols - Healing and Wisdom: Desert Meditation, the Four Elements, and the Grieving Process, as seen through the lens of The Canticle of Creatures.'