Some time ago, workers deposited large piles of sand on the beach near me. Since then, the rain has dug channels from the top of the piles on down the beach to the sea. Meanwhile, the sea keeps rising. There's an obvious message here, but I'm not sure anyone is listening to what the sea is teaching us. (Hardly unique, I know. There are too many people—including politicians—who keep their heads in such piles of sand, hoping ineffectual means will stave off the inevitable consequences of not responding responsibly to what nature keeps telling us.)
Banyan tree, Selby Gardens
Gary Snyder: "I want to challenge the priority given to charismatic landscapes . . . it is important to develop the kinds of sensibility that can learn from very plain landscapes, too . . . Landscapes themselves are not the teachers, it is what we do in the landscape that teaches us—walking in them, or spending time in them."
K. A. Hays: "Here floats the mind on the summer's dock.
The knees loose up, hands dither off,
the eyes have never heard of clocks.
The mind won't feel the hours, the mind spreads wide
among the hours, wide in sun."
Leaving Glacier Point, Spring Storm
Wendell Berry: "I stoop between the strands of a barbed-wire fence, and in that movement I go out of time into timelessness. I come into a wild place . . . The place has a serenity and dignity that one feels immediately; the creation is whole in it and unobstructed. It is free of the strivings and imperfections of places under the mechanical dominance of men. Here, what to a housekeeper's eye might seem disorderly is nonetheless orderly and within order; what might seem arbitrary or accidental is included in the design of the whole; what might seem evil or violent is a comfortable member of the household. Where the creation is whole nothing is extraneous. The presence of the creation here makes this a holy place, and it is as a pilgrim that I have come."
Gary Snyder: "I can say to myself, Well, I've done it. And I'll leave a lot undone, so that other people will be able to do it too. How it all looks later is not my business. People will do what they do with it, whatever. So that's kind of freeing. It frees you up."
Gary Snyder: "It's obviously human hubris to think we can destroy the planet, can destroy life. It's just another exaggeration of ourselves. Actually we can't. We're far too small . . . The time scale is far too large, and the resistance of cellular life is far too great . . . But that's no excuse. That would be no excuse for doing things poorly. A kind of bottom line is that all human activity is as trivial as anything else. We can humbly acknowledge that and excuse ourselves from exaggerating our importance, even as a threat, and also recognize the scale and the beauty of things. And then go to work."
Mary Oliver: "The wild waste spaces of the sea, and the pale dunes with one hawk hanging in the wind, they are for me the formal spaces that, in a liturgy, are taken up by prayer, song, sermon, silence, homily, scripture, the architecture of the church itself.
And as with prayer, which is a dipping of oneself toward the light, there is a consequence of attentiveness to the grass itself, and the sky itself, and to the floating bird. I too leave the fret and enclosure of my own life. I too dip myself toward the immeasurable."
John Muir likened the Yosemite valley to a cathedral, knowing there the experience Oliver points to above. I experienced that too, dipping toward the immeasurable.