"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more."
—Lord Byron, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"
Copyright © 2017
By Ralph F. Couey
There are many natural wonders, all of which strike a responsive chord of some kind. Some speak to us in peaceful serenity. Others inspire awe, the proverbial “wow.” Fields of flowers, vivid and joyful in their colors. A snow-capped mountain rising from the plains below, and the reverse view of the limitless land seen from high above. Sometimes it is the majestic power of a thunderstorm, or the yellows and reds of a sunset sky. Maybe its just a quiet afternoon beside the still waters of a lake.
We need those moments. We need those wonders. We need to be awed.
Life is often a chaotic mess racing at breakneck speed as the days click past like posts along a country road. Have-to-do’s and gotta-be-there’s make us frantic; being late or missing them entirely fills us with frustration and sometimes anger. The only time things slow down are those few moments at night between laying down and drifting off to a fitful sleep. Even then, our minds are full of thoughts of what lies in wait for us tomorrow.
We do this to ourselves, it seems, with a great deal of glee. Sometimes we boast to others just how busy we are, forgetting that this is not supposed to be a competition. Even vacations, which are supposed to be those times when we do relax, are filled, morning to midnight, with activities to the point that when we return home, we are tired all over again.
Here then is the eternal mystery, life lived at such a pace that we reach the destination without any knowledge of the journey.
Life is not about destinations. These things we call destinations are in reality little more than way points. When we reach one, we are immediately thinking about the next one. What we should be doing is to stop, look around, and take stock of where we are, and where we’ve come from. The midpoint of any journey is when things are happening. We learn, and put those lessons into practice. We succeed, and we fail, we laugh and we cry. Through it all, we are moving. The starting and ending points are pauses, moments of stasis. Nothing happens because either we haven’t started, or we’re already done. Thus that space in between is where that thing we call “life” happens.
We fly through our lives caught up in the frenetic pace set by the “have to dos” and “gotta be theres” that populate and drive our days. But in every one of those days, there will be a moment; a colorful sunrise; a beautiful blue sky; in the midst of a gloomy, rainy afternoon, a beautiful rainbow. Perhaps a quick glance reveals beams of sunlight among the trees. Coming home late, perhaps a glance above reveals the beauty and mystery of the universe.
Those moments when they occur, need to be noticed; they need to be felt. After all, nature is best seen by the heart. It is her way of whispering to us, a reminder that her greatest works are there for us whenever we are ready to view them. It is so important to take that time, embrace those moments because they can ease our stresses, and even heal our pain.
To spend such moments is a gift; to actually seek them out is perhaps the result of an unheard but deeply felt cry of pain from within the deepest parts of ourselves. There, removed from other people, the strain of the constant load we all carry, and just away from all the noise and tumult we are freed. We seem to be alone, but we actually are anything but. Surrounded and embraced thus, it is us, nature, and God.
Seek out the natural creation. Empty your mind and fill your soul.