By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Enjoying Nature

Thirty years ago, the Ensign published an article called "Discovering Nature" By Sharon Dequer
in the June 1977 issue. One thing she says is:

Think of the attitudes parents convey to children in such experiences, not necessarily attitudes about thunderstorms or snakes, but about life and the joy of living! Spiritual experiences can’t be staged, but one fruitful avenue that involves our children and ourselves in inspiring experiences is to explore—fully and enthusiastically—God’s creations. In the course of growing up we tend to acquire a worldly sophistication that dampens this enthusiastic sense of wonder about nearly everything. Cultivating wonder about nature heightens our appreciation of all creation and begins to break down our artificial distinction between things temporal and spiritual. (See D&C 29:34–35.)
Sister Dequer offers some suggestions for exploring nature:

A good way to begin discovering nature is by becoming more “sense-able.”

Teach your eyes, for example, to see, not just to look. Become alert for movement, large and small, in the grass, in the sky, at the borders of your vision. Look for colors that differ from their surroundings and for subtle changes and mixtures of hue. (There must be a hundred shades of green or brown in any summery scene). Look for shapes that seemingly don’t belong—a bird-shape or pine cone amid the fine branchlets of a tree.

Carry a small mirror with a hole at one edge on your adventure walks. Use it to get a worm’s eye view of the underside of a mushroom or the inside of a hollow tree. Put a long stick into the mirror hole and reach up for a bird’s eye view of a nest and its contents.

At night, hold a flashlight in front of your nose and scan with the beam; you’ll catch the gleam of reflected eyeshine in grass, bushes, gravel—anywhere. Possibly hundreds of creatures are looking at you: moths, beetles, spiders, frogs, mice, cats, raccoons—each with its own sparkly or glowing eyeshine color, like jewels in the night.

Then turn out the light. Although in that narrow beam you can see clearly, without it your eyes will quickly become dark-adapted, and you will see vastly more.

Concentrate on smells. Sample the breeze. Then take your nose up close and sniff the bark of trees. Different species often have characteristic odors (vanilla, cinnamon, or just pungent, sweet, indescribable). Unlock the distinctive qualities of leaves by crushing one, or (better for the plant) by rubbing it firmly between your fingers.

Experiment with taste and touch. Close your eyes and let someone put an object in your hands. What shape is it? What size and texture? Is it wet, dry, smooth, sticky, rough, furry, brittle, flexible, heavy, light? Smell it; brush it against your cheek. You might not know what it is, but could you find it again amid a number of other, possibly similar objects? Making a more complex game of it, could someone else identify your object from just your description?

Feeling the shapes of plant stems may bring you some surprises. Although most are round, some are square (the mints), and others, found in damp places, are triangular (sedges have edges).
Her suggestions can bring you to an appreciation of nature without turning it into "dully labeling countless plants and animals and reciting collections of detailed bits of lore". Not that a more scientific approach is dull to some of us! Nevertheless, it is good to sometimes just enjoy what's out there as it is.

This kind of exploring nature can be done anywhere--in a backyard, a park, a small flowerbed, or a tree. You can go out at night and look at the moon and stars. You can observe pets and, yes, even household pests (before disposing of them in whatever way suits your sensibilities)!

In your exploring, you will feed your spiritual self in surprising ways. Also, see my posts here at Scholar and here at Writing Blog, my other blogs, for more information on this topic.

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Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Your article should be a reminder to each of us to have gratitude in our hearts and minds for All that is given to us; beautiful sunsets, rainy days, fog that forms on the street after a rain in the summer, a Mockingbird that darts across in front of you and lands on a mailbox, a line of ants, and spider webs that hold the morning dew. All these were given to us to appreciate God's hand in our lives and we need to say Thank You to Him.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Beautifully put, T.F. And, yes, it is something to be very grateful for.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Barb said...

Great ideas! I recall hearing in General Conference that as one is more Spiritual that they will greater appreciate nature. There are times when nature can draw out the Spiritual side. Such wonder right before our eyes! I do look at nature as a testimony of a loving Father in Heaven who wanted us to have a beautiful world.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Mary A said...

I agree, Barb. It is a testimony and it does a lot to bring us to a spiritual place in our hearts and minds.

5:06 PM  

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