nature

nature

I recently talked with a friend who's spent time in the same deep darkness that I've known from time to time. In the course of our conversation, she shared a beautiful poem with me — a poem she wrote about an experience that helped her come through that darkness back into the light.

As the poem itself says, this may not be for you. But I wanted to share it here, with her permission, knowing that if the poem brings light to only one other person, I'll be glad I passed it along. I know it brought light to me.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life."

One of the many things I love about Mary Oliver's poetry is that she faces squarely into the complexity of our lives on "this side" of things — and then points us toward the simplicity that lies on the other side of our confusions and illusions.

Since I’ve canoed on our nation's biggest rivers I’ve been asked repeatedly: Why? My answer has always been the same: I love nature, boating, sleeping under the stars, camp fires, and solitude immersed in beauty.

In 1969, my brother-in-law who is an astrophysicist generously and patiently spent a long afternoon trying to explain black holes to me. After four hours I had a headache, but also a faint understanding of what these huge gravitational sinkholes might be.

I have spent the last 20 years trying to portray the sense of place I experience at the lake of my childhood. Located in Upper East Tennessee, South Holston Lake is cradled in the Appalachian Mountains.

Being in the presence of a deep, quiet body of water gently surrounded by this wise mountain range pulls me out of the shallow fray of my frantic life to rest in a centered awareness. It is a threshold — a true “thin place.”

"Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.”

This Simone Weil quotation mentioned by Krista during her conversation with Ann Hamilton has been bouncing around in my mind. I was reminded of it as I watched the Minnesota Youth Symphonies perform recently. It wasn’t your regular orchestra concert.

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."
—John Muir, from The Yosemite

These lyrical words from the great American conservationist are often cited, but what is far more interesting is the religious language he uses in the following paragraphs:

The push and pull between religion and science has shaped advances in geology from the beginning. David Montgomery set out to debunk Noah’s Flood; instead he discovered this biblical story was the plate tectonics of its day. He tells us how the evolution of landscapes and geological processes shape ecology and humanity. And, how we should read rocks for the stories they tell about who we are and where we came from.

A stunning full moon cradles a highline walker at Cathedral Peak. Bliss, beauty, and exhilaration at once.

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