Transcendental Musings

June 23, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Fall SwampFall Swamp

It’s often forgotten that every natural object is imbued with an inherent beauty—that there’s more to a pleasing outdoor scene than delicately manicured lawns and gardens lined with gaudy phalanxes of tulips and plush beds of the ubiquitous daffodils or other accustomed garden denizens. That even the mundane when placed into its proper setting, as a rivet or bolt is positioned in a machine, has its purpose and importance. The lone and asymmetrical stone, aggregations of mushrooms, and swarming insects, give greater depth and fuel the scene at hand. Artificial displays excised of anything other than that reared by man can only drive my thoughts so far, leaving but the shallowest and most transitory of impressions. The unkempt and broad splendors of the natural world, in contrast, leave more than lingering awe, continuously driving curiosity and excitement as a new scene of wonder constantly unfolds before me.

Among the forests, atop the woody hills and harsh mountain summits, and in every other wild place where nature reigns rather than lurks, a divinely intoxicating influence suffuses the air as thickly as fog, as intensely as light. It humbles, it inspires, it enraptures. The mind becomes more volatile and effervescent, whimsical even. All subjugating thoughts are lifted and evaporated into the crisp air. No longer preoccupied and worried by trivial matters, where a long standing bout of perennial tunnel vision has caused all peripheral sights to be glossed over, the landscape expands—trees can be picked out of the forest line, and individual leaves and blades of grass inspected among the mass of green, the eye drawn by subtle spotting or unusual coloration. Detail is at last seen. Curiosity buds. We become as nimble as a fox, as eagle-eyed as a raptor. We are in our element. A kindred sympathy develops between all surrounding life and matter encountered. The interpenetrating complexity overwhelms, shattering our egos and sense of understanding; all we can do is marvel at the surrounding beauty.

Witch-hazelWitch-hazel

The experiences I’ve had where not even the most minor trace of humanity could be detected have been the most remarkable and memorable. The lapse of time separating me from these events of significance often stretch back years, but I have little difficulty remembering where it matters. Vivid sunsets and even the poignant smell of a wildflower have been enough to imprint the day in full detail into memory.

In these instances where nature latches onto us, however slight, the undiluted energy of nature is easily absorbed. Its power cannot be easily contained. Try as you will, but it can’t be hoarded or sequestered for long. It’s eager to be transferred to the nearest object, like an electric spark, making the full rounds of the earth. It floods and expands in the body like lightning shooting from cloud to cloud, forming vast networks as comprehensive as those created by the roots of plants. Man is its surface conduit. From him it radiates by tendrils, which grasp and climb everything within reach, elevating man, and granting him new and inspiring views of both sight and thought.

No longer disconnected, bouncing around as some rattling and discordant component, we now humbly assist with the workings of this grand machine, that we call Nature.

***

Men vainly strive for a greater purpose, thinking only of advancement, the attainment of power and exerting influence—always on the move and shamefully hiding their heads if they’re surpassed by those more adroit than themselves. A life of hectic devotion to such disgraceful tenets of the modern era is an affront to the simplicity and beauty of the world, taking us farther away from the true goals that should pervade our lives.

We should rather follow the example of the woodland spring ephemerals. Though diminutive in stature, with some barely able to rear their heads above the leaf litter, they freely share their gifts to all with an air of unpretending humility. When we finally have sense enough to see that this is as high a purpose as one need to strive to attain, we shall with ease command a different sort of success, attracting a steady following of those reverencing kind and radiant virtues, as a hidden flower has its loyal pollinators. There’s meaning and wealth in everything, regardless of position or stature. While those hidden among the detritus of the forest floor will be seen and respected only by a portion of the population, they will reside solely among the best company, having had unworthy visitors winnowed by the grate of the forest.

Woodland HepaticaWoodland Hepatica

WaldenWaldenThoreau's cabin site, Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, MA


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