Twenty Questions

by John and Lara Oliver

When Adam named each of the animals, he entered into a new relationship with them. It is a glorious property of the relationship between man and his environment that when he personally discovers the identity of any part of creation — animal, plant, person — he senses greater value in it. God is always present in what we see, always and everywhere, but naming brings us into relationship.

These questions are designed to help you discover that world before you. Their answers — unique to your place on earth — will help heighten your awareness and deepen your appreciation. Then, with discovery and grace, comes personal investment and greater value. Answering these twenty questions is a wonderful exercise for individuals or families.

  • Describe five trees in your area. Can you name them?
  • Imagine the path the water you use at home from precipitation to faucet.
  • Describe the soil around your home.
  • How long is the growing season where you live?
  • What spring wildflower is the first to bloom where you live?
  • Where did the food in your last meal come from?
  • Name five birds you commonly see in your area.
  • Name five edible plants in your area.
  • From where you are reading this, point north.
  • Where does your garbage go?
  • If you have a car, how much gasoline do you use in an average week?
  • What is the largest wild region in your area?
  • How many days until the moon is full?
  • What is the land-use history by humans in your area in the past century?
  • How many people live next door to you? What are their names?
  • What energy resources — both developed and potential — are in your area?
  • What primary geological event or process shaped the land where you live?
  • Identify the source of each sound you can hear outside your home tonight.
  • There is no waste in nature. What happens to natural debris in your area?
  • Name five qualities you enjoy about the natural world around your home.

John and Lara Oliver are members of St. Ignatius Orthodox Church in Franklin, Tennessee. John is the author of An Island For America: A Monastic Pilgrimage and A Journey Home, to be published in the fall of 2001. He was guest editor of this issue. Lara is training to be a midwife. They have a baby daughter, Anastasia, and another on the way.