Category: Quotes

Incomparable Joy

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

Hermann Hesse–Wandering: Notes and Sketches (1920)

Needed and Misunderstood

Spiders are anti-social, keep pests under control, and mostly mind their own business, but they somehow summon fear in humans who are far more dangerous, deceitful and have hurt more people. Of the two I’m more suspicious about the latter.

The spider’s web: She finds an innocuous corner in which to spin her web. The longer the web takes, the more fabulous its construction. She has no need to chase. She sits quietly, her patience a consummate force; she waits for her prey to come to her on their own, and then she ensnares them, injects them with venom, rendering them unable to escape. Spiders – so needed and yet so misunderstood.

Donna Lynn Hope

Cares Will Drop

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

John Muir

No Longer “It”

I consider a tree.

I can look on it as a picture: stiff column in a shock of light, or splash of green shot with the delicate blue and silver of the background.

I can perceive it as movement: flowing veins on clinging, pressing pith, suck of the roots, breathing of the leaves, ceaseless commerce with earth and air—and the obscure growth itself.

I can classify it in a species and study it as a type in its structure and mode of life.

I can subdue its actual presence and form so sternly that I recognise it only as an expression of law — of the laws in accordance with which a constant opposition of forces is continually adjusted, or of those in accordance with which the component substances mingle and separate.

I can dissipate it and perpetuate it in number, in pure numerical relation.

In all this the tree remains my object, occupies space and time, and has its nature and constitution.

It can, however, also come about, if I have both will and grace, that in considering the tree I become bound up in relation to it. The tree is now no longer It. I have been seized by the power of exclusiveness.

To effect this it is not necessary for me to give up any of the ways in which I consider the tree. There is nothing from which I would have to turn my eyes away in order to see, and no knowledge that I would have to forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and type, law and number, indivisibly united in this event.

Everything belonging to the tree is in this: its form and structure, its colours and chemical composition, its intercourse with the elements and with the stars, are all present in a single whole.

The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, no value depending on my mood; but it is bodied over against me and has to do with me, as I with it — only in a different way.

Let no attempt be made to sap the strength from the meaning of the relation: relation is mutual.

The tree will have a consciousness, then, similar to our own? Of that I have no experience. But do you wish, through seeming to succeed in it with yourself, once again to disintegrate that which cannot be disintegrated? I encounter no soul or dryad of the tree, but the tree itself.

Martin Buber–I and Thou (1923)

Multiplicity of Miracles

Around us, life bursts with miracles–a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.

Nhat Hanh

Night Creatures

We are all naturally seekers of wonders. We travel far to see the majesty of old ruins, the venerable forms of the hoary mountains, great waterfalls, and galleries of art. And yet the world’s wonder is all around us; the wonder of setting suns, and evening stars, of the magic spring-time, the blossoming of the trees, the strange transformations of the moth . . .

Albert Pike

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The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.

Paula Poundstone

The Nature Fix

The idea of solvitur ambulando (in walking it will be solved) has been around since St. Augustine, but well before that Aristotle thought and taught while walking the open-air parapets of the Lyceum. It has long been believed that walking in restorative settings could lead not only to physical vigor but to mental clarity and even bursts of genius, inspiration (with its etymology in breathing) and overall sanity. As French academic Frederic Gros writes in A Philosophy of Walking, it’s simply “the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found.” Jefferson walked to clear his mind, while Thoreau and Nietzsche, like Aristotle, walked to think. “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” wrote Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols. And Rousseau wrote in Confessions, “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.”

. . . Here are some of the essential take-homes: we all need nearby nature: we benefit cognitively and psychologically from having trees, bodies of water, and green spaces just to look at; we should be smarter about landscaping our schools, hospitals, workplaces and neighborhoods so everyone gains. We need quick incursions to natural areas that engage our senses. Everyone needs access to clean, quiet and safe natural refuges in a city. Short exposures to nature can make us less aggressive, more creative, more civic minded and healthier overall. For warding off depression, lets go with the Finnish recommendation of five hours a month in nature, minimum. But as the poets, neuroscientists and river runners have shown us, we also at times need longer, deeper immersions into wild spaces to recover from severe distress, to imagine our futures and to be our best civilized selves.

Florence Williams–The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and more Creative