Did you know that eighty percent of the information we receive comes through our eyes? And if you compare light energy to musical scales, it would only be one octave that the naked eye could see which is right in the middle? And aren’t we grateful for our brains that can take this electrical impulse that comes from light energy to create images in order for us to explore our world? And aren’t we grateful that we have hearts that can feel the vibrations in order for us to allow ourselves to feel the pleasure and beauty of nature? ~Louie Schwartzberg
Our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving today. Anybody's Thanksgiving Day is a good reminder for all of us to express some gratitude. If you need some help thinking about what to be grateful for, Louie Schwartzberg has some ideas.
In fact he’s done such a good job in reminding me, I’m calling him beautiful thing number seventy-seven.
I think the most demoralizing thing about winter is, for me, the lack of colour. In April, we finally saw a few bulb flowers emerge – but things were so dull, rainy and cold, even tulips and crocus seemed reluctant to flourish. Flower boxes are being filled up outside of storefronts and that's great, but it's not until nature lets her hair down and goes crazy that the colours really make themselves known in the psyche.
All that rain did encourage more green, as it always does. And now – after several warm, sunshiny days, trees are budding, leaves are popping, and yellow has arrived in the form of forsythia and dandelions.
May is really good at making weather in my part of the world – the humidity hasn't arrived, the sky is clear and blue, flowers are fresh and perky and green is all rich and cool, tempting you to jump in and bathe in it.
Welcome back colour, I've missed you. Today you're beautiful thing number thirty-eight.
In the wake of the horrible happenings in Japan this week and a string of other recent natural disasters affecting New Zealand and Australia, this webcam of newly hatched hummingbirds reminds us of nature's resilience and brings some sense of hope, doesn't it?
Life continuing on in spite of it all: beautiful thing number twenty three.
To watch the live webcam, click here. (Subject to local daylight, and the period of time the fledglings live 'at home' in the nest.)
Other video preserved video on YouTube:
I can find beauty in the seediest parts of any city. Beauty is easy to find if, if you believe as I do that it has many more layers than that which sits on the surface of a thing or a person.
But then there is the kind of beauty that transforms you, the kind the Romantics explored. I’ve experienced this kind of transformative beauty a number of times in my life, and it’s always the product of me encountering some work of art or some aspect of the natural world. I valued beauty even as a kid, and that’s probably why I found such power in studying Romantic literature in university. When I found these poets writing of sublime experiences in encountering beauty, I got it, because I’d been there.
I was about sixteen when I sat in an art history lesson and saw slides of Michelangelo’s Pieta. It was the first seed of an idea that I’m now certain of: that great artists channel a source that moves beyond the confines of human understanding. I experienced a similar conviction about witnessing the transcendent when I studied John Keats and his achievements during his short stay on this planet.
Encountering divine splashes in nature has had even more startling impact on my sensibilities. A northern Ontario forest floor carpeted with trillium; the ancient rocks on the shore of the Manitoulin Island; great masses of bluebells covering the rolling, lusty landscape of mid-Wales; farm fields of yellow mustard radiating a colour you wouldn’t believe existed if you didn’t see it with your own eyes.
The most arresting encounter with the sublime in nature was in a forest next to a monastery and retreat I visited in Finland over the Orthodox Easter weekend some years ago. Saturday church services ran all night, and most of the visitors to the retreat had attended. I awoke with the sun, feeling some regret that I didn’t attend any of the services, feeling shy and out of place in my Presbyterian upbringing and largely secular sensibility. When I walked outside Sunday morning I felt very alone – everything on the compound was closed up tight; everyone was asleep but me. So I went for a walk.
I headed into the woods adjacent to the monastery grounds. Not far in, I was stopped short by the sight ahead of me. The sun was spilling its pale, shimmering ribbons through the dark contrast of the trees, landing in golds and pinks on the snowy forest floor. The picture was so stunningly beautiful I cried, knowing for certain I was being presented with a divine gift. I wondered for a moment if I’d stumbled onto heaven.
Perhaps some would say it’s simply a way of feeling, of exploring sensibility and one’s ability to pay attention to the experience of encountering magnificence. I am not a religious person, though I have experienced transformative moments of beauty in churches. I suppose I find more certainty in the tangible, finding the divine in great artistic accomplishments and the spontaneous magic in nature rather than through any strictures of organized worship or scientific rationalizations.
For me, these spontaneous experiences and the subsequent emotion and inspiration that result are the most convincing evidence that we are living in a magical world. Really, you couldn’t convince me otherwise.
And he, with many feelings, many thoughts,
Made up a meditative joy, and found
Religious meaning in the forms of Nature!
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Fears in Solitude
Story Copyright © Jennifer Morrison 2010
The weather on the Manitoulin has been good to us. I've been working hard. On my tan.
This year the local wildlife has been making itself known to us. Shortly after Cathy and I arrived, we watched the sillouettes of a garden snake (or maybe a water snake – I wasn't that up for getting too close to investigate the fella's identity) and a frog. We all cheered as the frog hopped its getaway toward the pond.
But then, not ten minutes later, another little snake caught a frog right where the garden walk meets the deck stairs. My family (not me) watched in various combinations of fascination, horror and disgust as the frog was slowly consumed by the slithery scoundrel.
Later that night, as my dad opened the back porch door, a frog hopped in. Maybe it was appealing for safety from its mortal enemies outside.
Next day, a hummingbird flew into the back porch. We watched, trying to act calm so as not to give the poor little creature a heart attack while it made its way out. It eventually did with my dad's help.
This morning as we had our coffee, we watched (my favourite bird of all) a Great Blue Heron hunting in the pond. When I tried to go outside to get a closer shot, he flew away. I could hear his powerful wings reverberating in the air.
This morning after seeing brother Jeff off on the ferry, Cathy and I went for a long walk. Today, all humidity is gone, and we talked about how the cool air and warm sun felt so delicious on our skin. Best thing about the walk was the sky. It's not a sky you see in Toronto.