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Be Good To Yourself

Nature As A Joy-Builder

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To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

The woods were filled so full with song

There seemed no room for sense of wrong


Few young people who spend their summers in the country realize the splendid opportunities open to them for education as well as pleasure, at least to those of them who have learned to use their eyes.

"The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world," says Ruskin, "is to see something and tell what he saw in a plain way."

Think how much it would add to life's happiness to be able to see things as this great nature-lover saw them! To him beauty and harmony were everywhere, and all things were stamped with the autograph of the Almighty.

It is small wonder that an Agassiz, who would go into ecstasies over the structure of a leaf or a flower, over the scale of a fish or a grain of sand, was so rich in the cultivation of his observing faculties that he could not afford the time to lecture even for five hundred dollars a night. To study the wonders of Nature, to hear her music, and to interpret her language were riches enough for him.

"The more we see of beauty everywhere", says James Freeman Clarke, — "in Nature, in life, in man and child, in work and rest, in the outward and in inward world, — the more we see of God." If we love Nature and study her we cannot help seeing beauty everywhere; it will make us stronger and happier.

So much, indeed, of the real joy of life comes from keeping the soul,—all, one's faculties and senses,—responsive to Nature, that it is nothing short of criminal to allow a child to grow up without learning to use their eyes and ears properly and to see and hear things as they are.

One of the first lessons that should be impressed on every child, whether they live in the city or in the country, is how to see things out of doors. If they learn this early in life, they will be not only a person of larger intelligence and culture, but also a happier and more successful one than they otherwise would.

At the cost of a few pennies the poorest boy or girl may be transported to the country, and there see beauties which might entrance an angel. Yet many persons travel across continents to see the works of the great masters, and give fortunes to possess themselves of a canvas or two, representing a landscape, such as a sunset, or some other bit of nature, while they remain dense and unappreciative in the picture gallery of the great Artist of the Universe.

Many of us have become so self-absorbed and have had our energies so long directed upon our material desires and problems,—our plans to amass money, to make business pay, to perfect some invention, to write a book, or to attain this or that ambition;—in short, all our faculties have been centered in ourselves so long that they cannot look outward except upon the things that concern our immediate interests. To learn to see things out of doors would be, to many of us, like learning a new occupation or profession in middle life.

How often do we see a weary or broken-down city man go to the country for rest and recuperation and return to his city home or office unrefreshed and unstimulated. He did not really see or enjoy any of the country's wonder and beauty; he was not in sympathy with the voices of Nature, and could not hear them.

His soul had become so hardened and sordid in its absorption in wealth-getting that it no longer responded to her appeals. He had eyes, but saw not, and ears, but heard not; and so the real wealth and joy of life had passed him by. How different it would have been had he allied himself with Nature, so that he could have imbibed some at least of the spirit thus voiced by Emerson:

Who so inhabiteth the wood,

And chooseth light, wave, rock, and bird

Before the money-loving herd,

Into such forrester shall pass,

From his companions, power and grace

Pure shall he be without, within

From the old adhering sin;

He shall never be old,

Nor his fate shall be foretold

He shall watch the speeding year

Without wailing, without fear;

He shall be happy in his love,

Like to like shall joyful prove

Man uncovers his head and bows in reverence when he enters the sacred cathedrals of Europe, but how lifeless these cold stone piles are in comparison with the living, throbbing, creative processes which thrill us in the country! No matter how jaded or melancholy or discordant we may be when we go into God's great cathedral—the country—our mood changes; we feel as though we were drinking in the nectar of the gods. Every breath is a tonic and every sight a rest for the weary mind.

There is a spirit in Nature which finds kin in us, to which we respond. The things which God's thought expresses in flowers, in grasses, in plants, in trees, in meadows, in rivers, in mountains, in sunsets, in the song of birds, touches our very soul, puts us in tune with the Infinite, brings us into harmony with the great Spirit which pervades the universe. There is a magical restoring power in the Spirit which breathes through Nature, a healing balm for the wounded heart, a powerful refreshener for the jaded, weary soul.

Who has not felt the magic of that wonderful, refreshening, rejuvenating, recreating, process going on within them when walking about in the country? We can actually feel ourselves being made over, sense the renewing process going on within us when we are in the world of Nature.

Who has not gone into the country when the worries, frictions and discords of the strenuous life have well-nigh wrecked their nervous system and felt the magic, recuperative touch of the Nature Spirit? How insignificant the things which yesterday forced us well-nigh to distraction seem when we are drinking in Nature's healing power at every pore!

After a day in God's garden we feel as though we had taken a new lease of life, as though we had bathed in nectar and drunk the wine of life.

The man who comes back from a vacation spent amid the beauties of Nature is often a much better man than the one who went away. I have seen the most nervous, harassed businessmen so completely transformed by a few weeks in the country that they did not seem to be the same men that they had been before. They had an entirely different outlook on business, on life. The things that irritated and worried them before the vacation, they did not notice when they returned. They were new creatures, born again.

There is no doubt that this feeling of refreshment, this sense of rejuvenation, comes from the consciousness of the great creative Presence, the balm for all the hurts of the world. The swelling buds, the opening flowers, the throbbing life everywhere make us feel that we are standing in the very Holy of Holies, that we actually feel and witness the creative act.

Great minds have ever felt the peculiar healing power of Nature; the divine currents of life in the country have ever been a balm for their wounds, a panacea for all their ills.

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