“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” ~John Muir
The beauty of the earth is an invitation to the felt sense of gratitude; not the kind that you think of, but the sort that inhabits your body and reminds you how good it is to be alive. Any experience of nature has the power to heal and give strength like a direct transmission from the earth to the body. I am incredibly fortunate to live in the midst of Pacific Northwest forest. My back porch is like a nest in the trees.
As I have been working to cultivate the experience of gratitude and not always able to feel the thoughts I can conjure with my mind, I never realized until today how frequently I feel deeply grateful for the beauty of the world. The recognition reminded me of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s comment: “After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.”
When we listen to the natural world and slow down our pace to the world we live in, it is obvious that gratefulness is built into every living thing. There is joy inherent in every flower and trees stand erect and satisfied just as they are. Mountain tops show us our true size and courage. Impeded brooks sing, and give us peace with obstruction. iny ants carry ten times their weight.
Walt Whitman once wrote, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” Nature’s gratitude teaches us to pay attention to the smallest of details and the big picture of relationships. Where the sky and earth meet on the horizon defines them both. Learning to generalize these brief moments of awe, when we are struck by how the play of light through trees or the moon shining on the water is a noble place to practice the experience of gratitude in our daily lives.
I don’t know if any writer was able to articulate the essence of outdoor beauty as John Muir. He reminds us in his photography and words that: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” From now on, when I can’t find the feeling of gratitude in my body, I am going to go outside until it seeps into me sufficiently, so I can see the world aright again.