Pondering Nature is Exactly What Your Brain Needs
Here is the lesson I learn over and over again: We can’t hide from tragedy or stressful realities, but we can’t wallow in them either. We have to have a release. A few moments each day to reflect on that which is awe-inspiring, and which touches a deep down part of our humanity — this is essential to life.
Getting outside into nature is the perfect way to do this. In fact, this is the premise for The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams, which I am about to start reading.
But for when you can’t get outside, I have suggestions for three books that celebrate the audacious powers of nature, and that are just overflowing with awesome.
They will inspire you. They will get your spirit out of “below E” territory. And even more than getting you to just ponder the beauty and mystery that insinuates itself into every little green vein, they may just fill you with the motivation you need to get your body to one of those places, where worries and anxieties can’t help but look a little smaller in comparison to the trees and sky.
A recommendation from Traci at Slow Nature Fast City, I was excited to give Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild a try, since I fell in such love with Traci’s other book recommendation, New Slow City. The book is worth it for the insight on urban birds alone.
It answered so many questions I had about sparrows and starlings, creatures that I share space and air with each time I walk out my door. Aside from the famous story about their presence being a result of someone’s (ill-conceived, as it turns out) quest to bring all the birds in Shakespeare’s plays into the New World, I knew so little about these everyday avian neighbors. And there is so much to know. You might be surprised to learn just how fascinating these plentiful creatures are.
Above all, this book is about getting closer to nature, even when you do not live in proximity to much that is wild. I realize that this is one of the bold, underlined themes of my life.
Mary Oliver is a poet, and so, every word in Upstream: Selected Essays is sheer poetry. Her musings about growing up and falling in love with Wordsworth, Emerson and Whitman brought me back to every English classroom of my youth that I wished would never end and deliver me to the horror of chemistry or biology.
It brought me back to my most favorite ever class in college, “English Romantic Poetry” and kindled every difficult to express feeling that goes with falling in love with words, with literature, with ideas. Especially in the formative years of your life.
The story of an injured black-backed gull that she and her partner took in is beautiful and tender. Sweet and quiet. Likewise, her account of a small spider that took up residence in a stairwell corner moved me deeply. The author weaves her observations of the mundane facts of the spider’s existence, together with the grander meaning so often inherent in the seemingly mundane. I am so happy I stumbled upon this book. Every word is simple, understated beauty.
Turn off your mind, relax and float… upstream…
Audubon, On the Wings of the World
This stunningly beautiful graphic novel, Audubon, On the Wings of the World by Fabien Grolleau and Jeremie Royer, was a gift from my son. I picked it up and started reading it the other day. To my surprise, I read the entire book in one sitting.
The format is cool and very interesting and I realized, as I read it, that I really did not know much about John James Audubon. This is obviously a somewhat fanciful telling of his story, but it was so marvelously done that it accomplished what any great book rooted in non-fiction ought to – it left me wanting to learn more.
A great American adventure story, John Audubon risked life and limb for his passion, which was to document every bird in our still unknown, vast, wild land.
The scientific community generally rejected his life’s work at the time, finding his drawings too romantic, not clinical enough. Of course they were romantic! Nature is romance.
All three of these books share a theme.
Perhaps this is the only theme to speak of when it comes to nature. Whether you live in a cabin on Walden Pond, or a high rise in Manhattan, nature can be found all around us. Both enormous and microscopic, it’s hard to tell which end of the scale is more miraculous. We must remember to pay attention to this beautiful, deep and important part of who we are.
Especially the deeper we fall down the digital well.
Especially on those difficult days, too often now, when the base, the callous and the depraved seem to crash over us like waves.
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