|This small plant was holding a drop of dew at its heart along the Sauk Mountain trail.|
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
These words of Emerson's came to me by way of the Sierra Club's Daily Ray of Hope e-mails, and they immediately got me thinking. At first glance, this appears to be one of those quotes we can just skim over, nod our heads in agreement, and then go on our way without really thinking too hard.
But what can we really get from these words?
We must be prepared, present, and receptive to the world around us. We need to cultivate a sense of wonder and delight. We need to become the "transparent eyeball" Emerson wrote of in his famous 1836 essay, Nature. If we don't carry with us a hopeful spirit of seeking, then we'll be hard-pressed to find beauty anywhere. We might miss the resilient and weedy flower growing from a crack in a bleak concrete landscape we pass through daily; we might fail to notice the playful crows flying overhead, dropping various items and diving to catch them as we sit in traffic on the freeway clenching the steering wheel beneath angry white knuckles; we might be oblivious to sunlight creating a masterpiece in the sky amidst freshly broken storm clouds.
We might even spend hours sweating and striving while hiking to a stunning alpine lake or summit of a peak, but be blind to the breathtaking beauty of the place, senseless to the fresh air and deaf to the utter quiet. I've seen it many times: at the trail destination there will be people staring at their cell phones, taking selfie after selfie, or perhaps fanning themselves and complaining about the heat in the sourest of moods.
And what do we do when we fail to appreciate and absorb the beauty of a place, especially beauty so overt? We not only fail to notice, but we fail to care. When awe and delight and reverence don't register a connection between us and the landscape, then indifference creeps in. We're unmoved to hear of logging activity surrounding a trail we recently hiked. We see insects, wildlife, weeds as pests, nuisances, and dangers. We leave a Subway bag full of garbage at the top of Mount Si.
So, not only do we need to be receptive to the beauty of a place - whether overt or hidden - but we also need to bring beauty with us. We "carry it with us" when we care enough to do the right thing, to do no harm, leave no trace, tread lightly on the landscape, speak softly, listen.
|View of Mount Rainier from the top of Mount Si|