The peace of wild things and the curse of imagination

I’m thinking tonight about a poem by Wendell Berry called “The Peace of Wild Things.” He writes how “When despair for the world grows in me” he goes into nature, where “I come into the peace of wild things / who do not tax their lives with forethought / of grief.” Brilliant line. Taxing our lives with forethought of grief is exactly what we do. Why do we do this to ourselves? Because of imagination. Continue reading

Advertisements

An autumn walk in the woods: life, death, and kitschy art

leves on groundNature is life and death equally. What is living is dying, and what is dead becomes new life. Recently on a walk through some river-bottom woods I found the “dying” part on full display. Granted, falling leaves and brown grass represent plant dormancy, not death, but certainly there’s an element of death to it. The trees grow bright with dying foliage, and the ground is littered with the carcasses of the fallen. How’s that for a cheery autumn stroll? Continue reading

Mark Twain, Charles Lindbergh, and the art of seeing like a beginner

A strange thing happened the other day when I walked past a tree. It was a mature pine with the rough, crevassed bark that you expect to find on such a tree. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.

Image of Pine tree bark backroung texture in brown color

Pine bark similar to what I saw. From Featurepics.com

The strange thing happened when I remembered the locust tree that stood in my front yard when I was growing up. I’m old enough to remember when that locust had smooth bark, and how over the years it began to split and roughen as the trunk gained girth.

So as I walked past the pine, suddenly I saw the patterns in the bark for what they were—evidence of the tree outgrowing its skin and literally bursting out of it. By mentally closing the crevasses I could imagine a smaller, smooth-barked tree in its place. I’ve walked past that tree hundreds of times, but now it felt like I’d never seen it before. Same thing with the other trees I passed on that walk. A simple realization—not particularly original or profound, and pretty obvious in hindsight—but it altered my perception and brightened my day. Continue reading