Reading Nature

When I can’t drag myself up the mountain–my theory is that it has something to do with the change of seasons, or perhaps it is the consuming MA work–I turn to literature and what it says about our experience of nature and being outdoors.

Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, the 1998 Booker Prize winner, tells of a “reluctance to be overcome,” because of a “a sense of scale habituated to [by] the daily perspective of rooms and streets,”  and which requires an “act of will… to keep walking away from the nearest people, from shelter, warmth and help.” Does my sitting at a computer for hours on end reduce me to a “cringing state” as his character Clive describes?

Do I feel threatened by the dangers of the mountain, when there is only “elemental indifference”? I know, just as Clive knows, that my hikes on Mt. Doug remind me, as they reminded Clive in the Lake District, that I am “part of this order and insignificant within it,” and that once I am deep in the forest, I too will be “set free.”

But today with my daffodils in full bloom–amazing how planting 150 in the fall, don’t look like that many more in the garden–I recited Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” and from the comfort of my living room sofa, “wandered lonely as a cloud,” and “my heart with pleasure [filled] and [danced] with the daffodils.”

I think of Sharon Butala‘s The Perfection of the Morning, and how for me, as well, there is no “separating my spiritual journey, my life, from the reasons for and the effects of my daily contact with Nature.” Even this, though, does not urge me to lace shoes and head out.

When the sky turns gray, I turn to Wendell Berry‘s Fidelity, and I reread how Danny takes the dieing Uncle Burley Coulter from his hospital bed and returns him to the “woods and darkness” where he belongs. But it is Spring, let me return to rebirth.

In The Nature Notes of An Edwardian Lady, I look at Edith Holden’s beautifully drawn daffodils and Hedge Sparrow and think about the birds of my forest that are about the business of gathering leaves and twigs for their nests. This simple lovingly written journal is never far from me.

The mountain is green from my window and my lawn needs mowing.

I need to be outside and up the mountain.

Soon, soon.

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