Today is the 2nd to last day in my current Brooklyn apartment before I embark on an experiment of living in San Diego.
If you saw my instagram story at all today, you know that I had a TON of books to go through. I knew books would be the most difficult things to part with. I’ve currently narrowed it down to a medium-sized pile of books I want to keep, mostly books written by my friends or books that have a certain emotional significance.
I’m donating a much larger pile of books…books that I could either easily get on audio or kindle later if I really wanted them again, or books that I have no nostalgic attachment to.
There was only one book that I felt a strong pull to keep, that I had originally discarded. It sat on the top of the donate pile, pretty much begging me to open it. So I sat down with the little book tonight, and asked it what it wanted me to share.
The book is called “Nature,” and it contains an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson that suggests that “reality can be understood by studying nature.”
All over the cover, it says repeatedly:
“In the woods is perpetual youth.”
I was drawn to this book because one of the things I’ve been really craving lately is to be closer to nature – something I don’t experience much in New York City, and even when I do, it’s small patches of green, or plants that I bought at the corner store, or the basil garden in my neighbor’s backyard. These little slices of the natural world are important when we’re in the city. But I’ve been wanting a little more. A little more green, a little more barefoot, a little more sunlight reflecting off the water.
I remember 5 years ago hearing a yoga teacher say to me — “The only way to truly be happy living in New York City is to get OUT of the city, and get into nature — often.” I never forgot that.
What is it then – about nature – that energizes us, calms us, and nourishes us?
I had no idea what to expect when I cracked this book open but I knew I couldn’t send it to the donate bin without seeing what was behind the curtain.
And in the introduction, he asks, “to what end is nature?” (for what purpose is nature?) and here I’m sharing some of the words that sparked me the most.
I found a sentence I loved on the first page.
“Why should we not have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?
The sun shines today also. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts.”
“But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.
The stars awaken a certain reverence, because although always present, they are inaccessible, but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence.”
“The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other, who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.”
I love that – in the presence of nature…a wild delight.
“Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear…
Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both.”
“The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens.
What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? This zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds? …More servants wait on man than he’ll take notice of.”
About the beauty of nature…
“To the body and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone. The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself.”
“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”
“Nature is the symbol of spirit.”
And my favorite Emerson quote that I’ve found tonight, I don’t know if this one comes from the Nature essay or not.
“To the illumined mind,
the whole world
burns and sparkles with light.”
Illumined!!!!!! Not sure exactly how to pronounce that, but I like it. A lot.
More: About The “Nature” Essay
The book with the full essay: Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson
If those quotes aren’t enough to get you outside appreciating a blade of grass, I don’t know what is. Also, I think I’m keeping this book. ;)
Kiss the sun,