cover image Natural Prayers

Natural Prayers

Chet Raymo. Ruminator Books, $22 (212pp) ISBN 978-1-886913-29-5

""All of my life has been a relearning to pray--a letting go of incantational magic, petition, and the vain repetition `Me, Lord, me,' instead watching attentively for the light that burns at the center of every star, every cell, every living creature, every human heart."" To that end, Raymo (365 Starry Nights) offers a beautiful breviary of his moments of deep attention to the natural world, set in three different landscapes, following the moon cycles of a year. This professor of physics and astronomy (at Stonehill College in Massachusetts) and Boston Globe columnist divides his year between Massachusetts, the island of Exuma in the Bahamas and the west of Ireland. Each short section in the book links an observation of nature with a profound question or rumination that is rendered in the complementary terms of science and poetry or literature. Raymo is struck by the interconnection of all life while, for example, watching ants maneuver a dead moth across a porch in the Bahamas. He tracks the sun's energy down to the moth and the ants--energy that is born when protons fuse at the center of Sol. Raymo nails our sense that sun, energy and matter are one with Dylan Thomas's famous line, ""The force that through the green fuse drives the flower."" Celebrating the moon or dragonflies, Virginia Woolf or Thoreau, Raymo shows how scientific observation can become worship. As appealing and accessible as Lewis Thomas's Lives of a Cell, this marvelous book demonstrates how prayer can be a ""meditation on the world, informed by knowledge, open to mystery."" (July) FYI: In 1998, Raymo won a Lannan Literary Award.