July display at the Greenwood Library

July display at the Greenwood Library

Libraries across the country are deep into their summer reading programs, and the Greenwood Library where I work is no exception.  (Although we call it “Summer of Learning” to encompass a broader range of exploration and discovery beyond “just” reading!)  The theme for this year’s program is nature, and I created this display featuring some of my favorite books celebrating the natural world.  I’ve mentioned several of them in my blog posts over the  years.

Here are a couple of closer views so you can read the titles:

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And here are the inside book drops:

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Single crocus blossom

Single crocus blossom

“I never see the spring flowers rising from the mould, or the pond lilies born of the black ooze, that matter does not become transparent and reveal to me the working of the same celestial powers that fashioned the first man from the common dust.”
— John Burroughs, “The Grist of the Gods,” from The Art of Seeing Things:  Essays by John Burroughs, edited by Charlotte Zoe Walker

Purple crocuses growing up from the mold

Purple crocuses growing up from the mold

A commonplace miracle — witnessing rebirth, regeneration in spring flowers.

The tiny model for a flower painting

The tiny model for a flower painting

Watercolor sketch of crocuses

Watercolor sketch of crocuses

“At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable.  We can never have enough of nature.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Feeling the awesome grandeur of the wilderness along the old Alaska Highway

Contemplating the mystery of Exit Glacier, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park

What is wilderness but untamed nature.  Living in the city, I get my contact with nature in small, mostly tamed doses.  This is good therapy.  But touching the untamed wilderness brings a heightened sense of the mystery and hugeness of the universe, a sense of awe tinged with fear.

I’ve traveled to several of the country’s national parks, but none evoked this sense of grandeur quite like my trips to Alaska.  So much of that vast land is still wild and inaccessible.  I felt fortunate that there were a few roads and cruise ships that could take me to the edges of that unexplored wilderness so that I could stand humbled by the spirit of that wildness.

How lucky we are that there are still wild places to stir our hearts and souls.

 

In the midst of gentle rain . . . I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattering of the drops, and in every sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fancied advantages of human neighborhood insignificant, and I have never thought of them since.  Every little pine needle expanded and swelled with sympathy and befriended me.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Pine needles with rain drops

Pine tree reflected in rain puddle

“I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Here is Thoreau again espousing the appeal of solitude.  Relationships can be problematic.  Family, co-workers, friends, and loved ones let you down, make you angry, bring you to despair.  Life with people is a roller coaster of disappointments.

But the opposite is also true.  Relationships can bring joy, intimacy, and connection.

The conventional wisdom is that you need relationships to have a meaningful life.  Certainly hermits and recluses are viewed askance, as if there were something not quite right about them.  Those of us with monk-ish tendencies are apt to feel like misfits.

Anthony Storr, in Solitude: A Return to the Self, argues that one can indeed have a meaningful life and happiness without having any very close relationships:  “. . . interests in which imagination plays a part are, in many individuals, as important as interpersonal relationships in giving meaning to their lives.”  And he reminds us that, “Even those who have the happiest relationships with others need something other than those relationships to complete their fulfillment.”

Thoreau had an immense capacity for finding solace in nature and looking inward.  Nature provided him with much richness for his mind and imagination.  He reminds us that the gifts of nature are there for anyone who takes the time to enjoy them.

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity . . . with Nature herself.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Finding Nature in cut flowers: lupine at the Phinney Farmers' Market

What a blessing to wake up cheerful!  Although I almost always wake up looking forward to the start of a new day, I wish I would awaken with Nature on my mind.  Perhaps this is easier if you live in a little house in the woods.  Too often I wake thinking about all the things I need to accomplish in the next 12 hours.  And when you live in a city, like I do, it’s all too easy to spend all day indoors, at home or at work or in a store or in the car.  (Gene Logsdon, the Contrary Farmer, recently wrote a blog post about this very problem.  You can link to his comments here:  http://thecontraryfarmer.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/skywatchers/)

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day.”
— E. B. White

I usually find my Nature-fix in small doses — noticing a flower in my neighbor’s garden, sampling a bite of fresh produce at the farmers’ market, listening to the cawing of crows . . .  But I think I could do better.  I do think it is restorative and important to spend more time in Nature.  I will take a lesson from Thoreau and make it a daily priority.

“Never a day passes but that I do myself the honor to commune with some of nature’s varied forms.”
— George Washington  Carver

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
— John Muir

“I thank you God for this amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”
— e. e. cummings

Nature Journaling

February 19, 2011

The nature sketchbooks of Molly Hashimoto

Union Bay Wild Exhibit: Paintings and prints by Molly Hashimoto

The Elisabeth C Miller Library at the Center for Urban Horticulture is showing an exhibit of nature paintings by Molly Hashimoto through March 24th.  I aspire to keep a nature journal, so it was encouraging to see some of Hashimoto’s on display.  The “Union Bay Wild” exhibit is definitely worth a stop.  And while you are there, stroll the grounds to see what’s blooming in the botanical gardens.  You can link to the library website here: http://depts.washington.edu/hortlib/index.shtml.

Seen on a recent stroll through the gardens at the Center for Urban Horticulture

Hellebore, Center for Urban Horticulture

What Nature Reveals

August 1, 2010

"Benedictine prayer is designed to enable people to realize that God is in the world around them." Joan Chittister

“Morning and evening, season by season, year after year we watch the sun rise and set, death and resurrection daily come and go, beginnings and endings follow one another without terror and without woe.  We come to realize that we are simply small parts of a continuing creation, and we take hope and comfort and perspective from that.”
     — from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today by Joan Chittister, OSB

Nature can be another catalyst for contemplation.  Here are some photos taken during my contemplative walks around the grounds of St. John’s University:

Grace upon grace . . .

Tiger lily

"The world laughs in flowers." e e cummings

"Consciousness of God is perpetual prayer." Joan Chittister, OSB

"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, a lovely garden in a seed, and a giant oak in an acorn." William Arthur Ward

Dragonfly poses for backside view

Dragonfly

Natural necklace of lavender blossoms

Chipmunk in a tree

Thistle down

Reflections in the lake on my walk to Morning Prayer

Dandelion wishes

“We have to learn to be mindful that creation belongs to God and we have only been put here as its keepers.”
     — from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan Chittister, OSB