Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | February 7, 2008

In the woods is perpetual youth

EmersonOne of the inspirations of this blog is the Transcendentalism initiated by Emerson, Thoreau and others. Emerson’s essay ‘Nature’, although short, really started the whole movement, and stands as a good reminder to writers that they don’t have to produce reams to make a difference in the world. Here’s a section:

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 eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. …

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, 1836


Responses

  1. Emerson says it all.
    I love his transparent eye-ball, he must have expereinced that to have said it. If we are the eye-ball of God…….I think the Earth is also one of God’s eye-balls, and if that is so, how does it experience the little particles that live upon it (us)? And the stars and cosmos. Wow I like that idea.
    Coming back to Emerson’s woods, though, bless him for finding the words so perfectly.

    On the subject of words, a friend has just sent me this short poem. I love it:

    THE UNDERSTANDING

    The darkness lifts, imagine
    in your lifetime.

    There you are —
    encased in clean bark, you drift through
    the weaving reeds, rushes,
    fields flooded with cotton.

    You are free.

    The river films with lilies,
    shrubs appear,shoots thicken into palm

    And now all fear gives away
    The Light looks after you
    You feel the wave’s goodwill
    as arms widen over the water.

    Love, the key, is turned.

    Extend yourself –it is the Nile,
    the sun is shining,
    and everywhere you turn is luck.

    —- Louis Gluck

  2. He writes so beautifully. This post feels very apt today, as I finally got to see the Satish Kumar programme last night (I missed it on your link, but luckily it was repeated on TV in the early hours, so managed to get a recording). Such a moving and beautifully shot film. Like Emerson, Satish Kumar is deeply inspiring. I was particularly touched by the death of his father being the catalyst for his spiritual journey and healing. I can certainly relate to this, my own mother’s death during my childhood ultimately leading me back into the heart of nature to make my own peace with death, and finding at its core life, mysterious and extraordinary.
    There seems to be a collective grief (judging by the problems we all face currently) that only a deep reconnection to nature can heal. It is a strange sickness but having been motherless myself, I think it has alot to do with feeling ‘motherless’ in our souls. I am reminded of the song ‘sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home’. We have forgotten that we are home, that ‘She’ is with us, all around us, within us. Healing is remembering.
    Inspired by your post and Satish Kumar, I dug out an old book of mine entitled ‘Open your Eyes’, a collection of thoughts from Emerson. I’ll finish off by sharing some more of his beautiful writing:

    ‘The fall of snowflakes in a still air, preserving to each crystal its perfect form; the blowing of sleet over a wide sheet of water, and over plains; the waving rye field; the mimic waving of acres of houstonia, whose innumerable florets whiten and ripple before the eye; the reflections of trees and flowers in glassy lakes; the musical steaming odorous south wind, which converts all trees to wind-harps; the crackling and spurting of hemlock in the flames; or of pine logs, which yield glory to the walls and faces in the sitting-room – these are the music and pictures of the most ancient religion…I see the spectacle of morning from the hill-top over against my house, from daybreak to sunrise, with emotions which an angel might share. The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes in the sea of crimson light. From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid transformation; the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind. How does Nature deify us with a few and cheap elements! Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous.’ :0)
    Alice, the poem is beautiful, thank you.

  3. Alice and Maria thank you! What lovely additions and sharings.
    Alice, in the poem in the line:
    And now all fear gives away
    should that be ‘way’ rather than ‘away’?

    When I read Emerson and Thoreau I feel that they are all I need. Just some of their writings, a backpack and a little food, and I’m off into the country!

  4. Your style is very unique in comparison to other people I’ve read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this page.

  5. Thank you Fotoalbum! I think that’s why blogs are so great – there are so many ways/styles of using them!


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