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Visions Of Hope: Nature

... I shall never forget a certain dawn when I was high up on Mount Kenya. When the sun came up it was possible to look down on a sea of cloud and to see Mount Kilimanjaro, two hundred miles away...

William Sykes brings thoughts and reflections on the wonders of nature.

Nature—physical power causing phenomena of material world, these phenomena as a whole

The Creator—the Spirit of God—was at work in his creation. Can we not expect to see something of the Creator in his creation? I've been greatly helped by such people as William Wordsworth who in one of his poems wrote of 'a presence... whose dwelling is the light of setting suns'. This was an eye-opener. I had experienced something of the glory of the setting sun. I knew what he was writing about. Equally glorious is the dawn. I shall never forget a certain dawn when I was high up on Mount Kenya. When the sun came up it was possible to look down on a sea of cloud and to see Mount Kilimanjaro, two hundred miles away. I have often experienced the beauty of mountains, not just in Africa, but in the Himalayas and the Alps, and felt a sense of awe and reverence. Recently I've walked through the Samaria Gorge in Crete—the largest gorge in Europe—and it made me wonder. Sometimes a sunset in Miirren, Switzerland, is breathtakingly beautiful—the Jungfrau bathed in an orange red purple glow. I have found visits to the sea equally uplifting. Here one is faced with something vast and profound. Numerous visits to the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District confront me with 'a presence'. Even the desert in North Yemen has a beauty and a wonder all of its own and the whispering sands in the gentle breeze gave me an eerie feeling I was not alone. Like Moses before the burning bush, I had an awareness of the numinous.

God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.' And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.' And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Genesis 1:28-31

Thou visitest the earth and waterest it, thou greatly enrichest it; the river of God is full of water; thou providest their grain, for so thou hast prepared it. Thou waterest its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers.
Psalm 65:9-10

He did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.
Acts 14:17

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.
Romans 1:20

There is in those workes of nature, which seeme to puzle reason, something Divine, and [that] hath more in it than the eye of a common spectator doth discover.
Sir Thomas Browne, 'Religio Medici', part 1, section 39, in Geoffrey Keynes, editor, The Works of Sir Thomas Browne,
Faber & Faber, 1964, volume I, page 50

It is a happy world after all. The air, the earth, the water, teem with delighted existence. In a spring noon or a summer evening, on whichever side I turn my eyes, myriads of happy beings crowd upon my view.
William Paley, Natural Theology, Ward, Lock & Co, 1879, page 230

The laws, the life, and the joy of beauty in the material world of God, are as eternal and sacred parts of His creation as, in the world of spirits, virtue; and in the world of angels, praise.
John Ruskin, Modern Painters, George Allen & Sons, 1910, volume V, page 390

Nature responds so beautifully.
Roses are only once wild roses, that were given an extra chance, So they bloomed out and filled themselves with coloured fulness. Out of sheer desire to be splendid, and more splendid.
D.H. Lawrence, 'Roses', in Vivian de Sola Pinto and Warren Roberts, editors, The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence, William Heinemann, 1967, volume II, page 831

I remember perfectly well thinking to myself as I trod this path through Waringore, that, whatever was happening to me in life, just to be able to stare at this green moss, at these fallen twigs, at these blood-stained funguses, was sufficient reward for having been born upon this cruelty-blasted planet!
John Cowper Powys, Autobiography, Macdonald & Co. (Publishers), 1967, page 292

He is made one with Nature: there is heard His voice in all her music, from the moan Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird; He is a presence to be felt and known In darkness and in light, from herb and stone, Spreading itself where'er that Power may move Which has withdrawn his being to its own; Which wields the world with never-wearied love, Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'Adonais', xlii. 370, in Thomas Hutchinson, editor, The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Oxford University Press, 1935, page 436

Of all the blessings which the study of Nature brings to the patient observer, let one, perhaps, be classed higher than this, that the farther he enters into those fairy gardens of life and birth, which Spenser saw and described in his great poem, the more he learns the awful and yet comfortable truth, that they do not belong to him, but to the One greater, wiser, lovelier than he; and as he stands silent with awe, amid the pomp of Nature's ever-busy rest, hears as of old, The Word of the 'Lord God walking among the trees of the garden in the cool of the day.'
Charles Kingsley, Daily Thoughts, Macmillan & Co, 1884, page 7

God is the God of Nature as well as the God of Grace. For ever he looks down on all things which He has made; and behold they are very good. And therefore we dare to offer to Him in our churches the most perfect works of naturalistic art, and shape them into copies of whatever beauty He has shown us in man or woman, in cave or mountain-peak, in tree or flower, even in bird or butterfly. But Himself? Who can see Him except the humble and the contrite heart, to whom He reveals Himself as a Spirit to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, and not in bread nor wood, nor stone nor gold, nor quintessential diamond?
Charles Kingsley, Daily Thoughts, Macmillan & Co, 1884, page 151

'Bathe, O disciple, thy thirsty soul in the dew of the dawn!' says Faust to us, and he is right. The morning air breathes a new and laughing energy into veins and marrow. If every day is a repetition of life, every dawn signs as it were a new contract with existence. At dawn everything is fresh, light, simple, as it is for children. At dawn spiritual truth, like the atmosphere, is more transparent, and our organs, like the young leaves, drink in the light more eagerly, breathe in more ether, and less of things earthly. If night and the starry sky speak to the meditative soul of God, of eternity and the infinite, the dawn is the time for projects, for resolutions, for the birth of action. While the silence and the 'sad serenity of the azure vault' incline the soul to self-recollection, the vigour and gaiety of nature spread into the heart and make it eager for life and living.
Henri Frederic Amiel, AmieTs Journal, translated by Mrs Humphry Ward, Macmillan & Co, 1918, page 19

When I came into the country, and being seated among the silent trees, and meads and hills, had all my time in mine own hands, I resolved to spend it all, whatever it cost me, in the search of happiness, and to satiate that burning thirst which Nature had enkindled in me from my youth. In which I was so resolute, that I chose rather to live upon ten pounds a year, and to go in leather clothes, and feed upon bread and water, so that I might have all my time clearly to myself, than to keep many thousands per annum in an estate of life where my time would be devoured in care and labour. And God was so pleased to accept of that desire, that from that time to this, I have had all things plentifully provided for me, without any care at all, my very study of Felicity making me more to prosper, than all the care in the whole world. So that through His blessing I live a free and kingly life as if the world were turned again into Eden, or much more, as it is at this day.
Thomas Traherne, Centuries, The Faith Press, 1969, page 134

How beautiful this dome of sky;
And the vast hills, in fluctuation fixed
At Thy command, how awful! Shall the Soul,
Human and rational, report of thee
Even less than these!—Be mute who will, who can,
Yet I will praise thee with impassioned voice:
My lips, that may forget thee in a crowd,
Cannot forget thee here; where thou hast built,
For thy own glory, in the wilderness!...
—Come, labour, when the worn-out frame requires
Perpetual sabbath; come, disease and want;
And sad exclusion through decay of sense;
But leave my unabated trust in thee—
And let thy favour, to the end of life,
Inspire me with ability to seek Repose and hope among eternal things— Father of heaven and earth! and I am rich, And will possess my portion in content!
William Wordsworth, 'The Excursion', iv. 34, in E. de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire, editors, The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1959, page 111

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says,—he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life is always a child. In the woods is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances, master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.
The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknow¬ledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.
Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance. For nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs is overspread with melancholy to-day. Nature always wears the colours of the spirit. To a man labouring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Edward L. Ericson, editor, Emerson on Transcendentalism, The Ungar Publishing
Company, 1986, page 5


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