Summit County1s natural church |

Summit County1s natural church

Lu Snyder

SUMMIT COUNTY<Today, Easter Sunday, is a day many Summit County residents celebrate by going to church. Frisco resident Tom Castrigno and his wife, Kathy, celebrate Easter a little bit differently.They go skiing.While there are few who live in Summit County who don1t appreciate the natural beauty surrounding their everyday lives, for some, it1s a necessary part of their spirituality.To Breckenridge resident Deb Sodergren, nature is church.Sodergren was raised Southern Baptist. She grew up going to Sunday school and holy place.3(But) I always felt that my holy place was in nature, Sodergren said.Her family lived on a farm. They worked outside and nature was a big part of their life.3Everybody in my family celebrated nature, Sodergren said. 3But no one ever said that God was nature.But as an adult, that1s what she decided.Sodergren said she slowly grew away from her childhood religion, but it wasn1t until she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with her husband, Scott, that she finally felt comfortable embracing nature as her holy place.3When I was on top of Kilimanjaro, I felt like I was in God1s hands, she said. 3God is creation, God is the earth<and I feel closer to Him in nature.Sodergren still goes to church occasionally, but she said her true spiritual practice is as simple as a morning walk.3I love to walk and pray, Sodergren said. 3That1s my way of talking to God every day.Her practice would be more difficult, she admits, if she lived in, say, New York City.But here in Summit County, everything outside her window<the mountains, a raven, the trees, the snow, the blue sky<remind her of God.She1s not alone.Similarly, Silverthorne resident Chris Thurston finds his solace in nature.His holy place, Thurston said, is in the Utah desert<Moab and the Canyonlands.3It1s a very spiritual place, Thurston said. 3There1s a lot of energy there. You just feel it<you feel almost enlightened. It1s definitely a place I recharge.But the nature just outside his door in Summit County also plays an important part in Thurston1s spirituality. It reminds him of his connection to the Earth, he said.3The Earth is definitely a part of the universe, and if you1re good to the Earth, the universe will be good to you.That connection with nature, the Earth and the universe is something to which Silverthorne resident Mary Pat Cropper can relate.3When I1m outdoors, it1s an opportunity to feel my place in the big picture, Cropper said.It1s the clarity of the air, the colors of the trees, the scent of the earth that remind her of her connection to nature, Cropper said.3We1re all a part of it<the animals, the Earth, the rocks and the insects, she said. 3God, for me, is a greater power that has a lot to do with love and has a lot to do with connection.Maureen Keefe, a Frisco business owner, was raised Catholic. She has since shed her affiliation with the Catholic Church for a faith not prescribed by one religion. And for Keefe, too, nature plays an integral role in her spirituality.3Nature has always been a haven for me, Keefe said. 3(I1ve) always felt more at home in nature than anywhere else.Much of her practice, she said, has been influenced by an Ojibwa man who taught her sage-rubbing and other Native American rituals.The Native American 3reverence for nature and the connection to the Earth also influenced Castrigno.3Nature and the balance of energy in the universe are the biggest factors in my spirituality, said Castrigno, who finds spirituality in everyday rituals such as the food he eats, the resources he uses, the way he treats other people, and practicing yoga.He and his wife enjoy watching the numerous birds in the trees outside their window. It1s a reminder of the 3variety of living things on the earth.To rejuvenate, Castrigno said, he goes outside.And for traditional holidays such as Easter and Christmas, Castrigno and his wife celebrate by skiing with family and friends.

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