I went back into poetry because I felt like scientific language wasn’t precise enough to describe the experiences that I had in Galapagos. Science, rightly, is always trying to remove the “I.” But I was really interested in the way that the “I” deepened the more you paid attention. In Galapagos, I began to realize that because I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour, watching animals and birds and landscapes — and that’s all I did for almost two years — I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself and that as you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence.
I began to realize that the only places where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you […] But it’s astonishing how much time human beings spend away from that frontier, abstracting themselves out of their bodies, out of their direct experience, and out of a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for them if they hold the conversation at that frontier level. […] John O’Donohue, a mutual friend of both of us, used to say that one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself in the world, letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out. -David Whyte, speaking in interview with Krista Tippett (full transcript and audio)
Often when I walk these woods I get awe-struck by the enormity of all these trees cradling me, nursing me in mind and body, opening themselves to me, entreating me to surrender ever more fully to their care.
Autumnal view of a big American beech (with splashes of maple and balsam fir)
I have no idea how many trees are in Balsamea, so I say ten thousand. It’s probably a drastically low estimate, especially if you count all the little ones just getting started. I also say I’ve walked these trails ten thousand times, but I know it is many more. I just stopped estimating when it reached ten thousand. It’s all too much for me, and never enough.
I am immersed in the virtually miraculous nature of this unbelievable gift in which I swim. I did nothing to deserve it or earn it.
It’s what we have when we have nothing that defines our relation to nature and the effect of nature on the soul. Then we begin to realize that we do not exist outside of nature or above nature or independent of nature; we are simply its most vulnerable part. What we learn from nature may make the whole difference in the way we go through life, and what we want from it, and what we consider important in it, and—most of all—what we are capable of learning by being alive. —from Becoming Fully Human by Joan Chittister (Sheed & Ward)
(Click pics for full-screen views.) Views looking up under American Beech trees, abundant at Balsamea, fascinating in every season. See my post, The Junk Tree (Fagus grandifolia) for many more home-made pictures and discussion. Some foolish person called it a junk tree, not me. I’m not THAT foolish.
“What we learn from nature may make the whole difference in
… what we are capable of learning by being alive.” –JDC
“You don’t have to fly or drive anywhere to see the beauty of nature-it’s all right there in your own yard!” -NHGS
NHGS started out as a gardening blog — by a garden and landscape professional, self-described now as, “Once a professional gardener, now a helper” — who now shares with us nature studies, photographs, descriptions and more, including personal reactions to nature as it occurs in New Hampshire habitats of the same kinds I have here in the Northern Adirondacks.
It is terrific nature writing, wonderfully illustrated, and I am grateful to be a subscriber.
It is a delightful source of education about things I see every day, written in a fresh, light, personalized style, loaded with information about the things explored, in all seasons. I’m introduced to things I did not realize I was seeing! I’m enlightened about the things I have seen and long appreciated. Continue reading →
After half a foot of sticky, soggy snowfall overnight, today the temperature at Balsamea rose well above freezing. Along our trails, rapidly thawing snow showered from the trees everywhere in these dense woods, especially from the pines and firs, those bearers of great snow-loads.
Click pix for full size images
It fell in droplets, spoonfuls, cupfuls, bucketfuls and barrowfuls. The still, windless air said nothing while each of these sizes played their particular sounds, all around me patting, drumming, shushing and thumping their way through tree limbs, branches, twigs and evergreen boughs, then concluding each phrase with a strike on the snow on the ground. They formed an unusual percussive symphony unique to this particular circumstance, in a special variation playing upon atypical conditions in the fresh snow cover.
When or where can you hear nature using trees and snow as instruments to drench the still air in sound this way, with a variety of visual effects, too? When do you get to sit in the middle of the orchestra as it plays? It filled the air within a great dome surrounding me, simultaneously at every volume possible to my ears. Some notes played a few feet from me, ranging out to ones played barely within hearing. Some struck funny notes on my ball cap and shoulders. Continue reading →
During a slow sylvan saunter, if I stand still more than move, in bodily senses and in palpable transcendent essences I find reminders that nature made me to thrive among immortal woodland spirits, in refuge from the illusory blessings of merely mortal society. I cannot exceed the company of trees, nor regret deep solitude among them.
Each phase of nature, while not invisible, is yet not too distinct and obtrusive. It is there to be found when we look for it, but not demanding our attention. It is like a silent but sympathizing companion in whose company we retain most of the advantages of solitude … — Henry David Thoreau, Journal, November 8, 1858