Our humanity is the natural world

To listen is therefore to touch a stethoscope to the skin of a landscape, to hear what stirs below.  George Haskell

Maria Popova’s recent newsletter, Nature and the Serious Business of Joy, resonated strongly with me and I was struck by how shared sentiments can connect us across centuries, borders, gender, time and place. I was delighted to discover Whitman, Thoreau and I share a love of trees. That the work of Michael McCarthy articulates the deep-seated joy I have when in nature.  Nature pulls me. I am drawn to it and feel very at home, embraced, when in the wild places.

Over the years I have realised the pull of nature and my respect and adoration of it can only stem from being of the earth myself and of sharing the same transcendent source as the natural world. Rachel Carson expresses it beautifully:

 “Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.”

Michael McCarthy has walked the same paths as I. He too has felt, numerous times, that sudden and involuntary love of nature that bursts forth with such “a startling intensity, in a burst of emotion which we may not fully understand, and the only word that seems to me to be appropriate for this feeling is joy.”  And yet what is joy? Sadly it seems a term used only by those delusional romantic types (like me), caught up in the fanciful, magical type of thinking that a weary, cynical populace denounces.

McCarthy weighs the precariousness of joy in our modern world: “Joy is not a concept, nor indeed a word, that we are entirely comfortable with, in the present age. The idea seems out of step with a time whose characteristic notes are mordant and mocking, and whose preferred emotion is irony. Joy hints at an unrestrained enthusiasm which may be thought uncool… It reeks of the Romantic movement. Yet it is there. Being unfashionable has no effect on its existence… What it denotes is a happiness with an overtone of something more, which we might term an elevated or, indeed, a spiritual quality.

Nature speaks to so many of us, it awakens our senses and, at times, offers us a glimpse into the extraordinary, yet so few speak of these experiences publicly.  We should extol nature’s virtues loudly. Share the revelations uncovered while in the wilderness. Thoreau recognised nature as an antidote to the diminishing of spirit amid a fast paced, ego-driven society — “In the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean,”

McCarthy takes Thoreau’s idea further and reminds us of our origins, the roots of our being and our evolution with the earth and our connection to her —

“They are surely very old, these feelings. They are lodged deep in our tissues and emerge to surprise us. For we forget our origins; in our towns and cities, staring into our screens, we need constantly reminding that we have been operators of computers for a single generation and workers in neon-lit offices for three or four, but we were farmers for five hundred generations, and before that hunter-gatherers for perhaps fifty thousand or more, living with the natural world as part of it as we evolved, and the legacy cannot be done away with.”

We are not separate from the natural world, we do not simply walk upon it, we are part of it as it is of us. We belong to the natural world and ought to rekindle our connection to be once again filled with joy, substance and beauty.

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.” Whitman.

Nature’s micro structures

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge from The Daily Post is for the topic:

STRUCTURE

Here’s the prompt the good people at The Daily Post offered:

Today, take a moment to notice the structure of everyday things around you. Note the lines, freckles, and tiny hairs on your arm, and imagine the biological blueprint that created them. See the bricks of a building, and realize that they were individually placed there by another person. Then, share with us a photo of the structure of something wonderful. We’re eager to see details through your lens.

There are examples of structure all around us.  I am fascinated by the intricate way things fit together and work in conjunction with each other.  I marvel at architectural structure and the process of building but my focus today went to the natural environment. With so much on offer I could not settle on one image, nor do the several below fully sate my curiosity.

Looking into the micro structures of life

Waves, Gardenias and Einstein

Do you ever have those times when you feel like everything is stacking up and you just can’t deal with it all, manage it all, find time for it all? Even the good stuff loses its shine and seems too difficult because there are so many competing issues to deal with, projects to begin, people to see, plans to fulfil? I’m in that spot right now.  It is like a massive wave has engulfed me and I’m rolling around inside, tangled, tumbling, tossing about without a level surface upon which to set my feet. I’m off balance.

I’m in a state of overwhelm, a state of ‘woe is me’. I’m in that place where it’s easier to throw my hands in the air and do nothing, to bury my head in the sand and hope it will all go away. Procrastination is my ‘go to’ behaviour in times like these.

Strange I should be visited by this devil, this monkey on my back now. Things have been going so very well of late. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful holiday, I’ve made some personal shifts that have been very satisfying. I had great intentions for the several projects I had in place. Why now?   Is there really a part of us that likes to maintain the status quo, that likes to keep us in a place of mediocrity, of longing, of never quite being where we want to be? If so, breaking that barrier, breaking the cycle of highs and lows is a challenge.

I know I won’t be in the whirlpool of my dispair for long. But I know if nothing changes I’ll be back at the beginning of the same pattern, the same cycle of longing and hoping that things will be different. I’ll come out of the whirlpool, I’ll pull my socks up and I’ll line up my projects again. Things will swim along pleasantly and happily for sometime, I will feel like I’m making progress  and, BAM, the wave will roll in and suck me under and into the turmoil, yet again!

What needs to change? What can I do differently to break the cycle, to cut the cord, to move on?

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That was several days ago. I didn’t have the answers but I faced my fears and took action. Action that I saw me emerge from the depths of the tumultuous wave, with my head above water noticing the brightness of the sun rather than the murkiness of the sea bed.

Firstly, I looked for something to be immediately grateful for and something to bring beauty into my seemingly helpless, hopeless world. I wandered into the garden and gave thanks for the newly budding flowers, the lush herbs and the gorgeous smell of gardenias, lavender, rosemary and mint.  I selected three beautifuly formed, pure white gardenias and placed them in a small crystal vase near my workspace.

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Then, beyond all impulses to run away, to hide, to procrastinate, I set about addressing the one critical task that needed to be fulfilled that day. I slowly worked my way through it, allowing time for small breaks to stretch and drink tea. I pushed aside my overwhelm to focus for the day on this one significant task and I am proud to say I achieved it. I ticked it off the list.

These two small acts, acts that differed from my past behaviour, achieved something akin to a miracle for me. Instead of being tossed about for weeks on end, sinking deeper into self pity and despair I now, just a couple of days later, have more energy, feel more motivated and have a brighter outlook than I expected was possible.

It wasn’t rocket science but maybe the key to changining the cycle is to do something different. I can see the truth in that old adage of Einstein’s:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten”

I raise my cup of tea this morning and propose a toast to life, to the power in taking action and to breaking habitual cycles by doing things differently, one small step at a time.

Here’s to you too. Wishing you a wonderfully pleasant and fulfilling day.

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