Beliefnet
A Pagan's Blog

Nature poetry is important in helping us reconnect with the living earth, an experience even some Pagans have not personally experienced (yet). National Poetry Month is a fine time to reflect on this, and share some poems.  

Our society relates to nature as a sociopath relates to others, and with as much justification. And this is as painful to those of us who have connected with nature as far more of us find when we experience the callous indifference of sociopaths.  But most of us are not sociopaths. 

Many of us have been led to to believe nature is inert and in itself meaningless, but we retain the capacity to see differently, if we have the opportunity and the courage.  Only we never think to use it.  That situation is rather like when so many white Americans were long socialized to regard their Black neighbors as less than fully human.  Evidence to the contrary abounded, but was not perceived.


Once we are taught to take certain things for granted most of us perceive only what we think we already know.  It is a kind of hypnotism.  Learning to see in new ways is difficult.  When a whole culture, like the South, was founded and took its meaning from a world view that dehumanized others, change is painful and slow.  But it has happened for many.

The leaders of modern culture do the same thing with nature that Southern leaders(and not just Southern leaders) did with respect to how Whites experienced Blacks.  And here is where nature poetry comes in.

Great art teaches us to perceive in new ways, ways that capture the interior meaning of an event or place or person. Nature poetry does this for the natural world, helping us see it with new eyes.  I offer three here, but there is so much more.  Perhaps some of you will offer some as well.

Robinson Jeffers wrote 

The storm blowing up. Rain and dark weather and the
    roaring wind,
And the gulls making their storm-dance –
They fly low mostly, but now they have gone up into the
    sky,
Whirling and dancing, the common sea gulls,
Believe me, there is nothing there for your hungry beaks,
    no little fish,
No floating corpses, it is all a waste desert of air.
High in the air –
Gray wings and white, floating over the storm,
What are you doing?  There is no food up there.  – For
    pure beauty of the storm –
They feel the beauty of things – as we do – they give
    Their flying hearts t it – their wing-borne hungers . . .

And from John Daniel

Return
When at one in the morning a raccoon
rustles out of the brush
and rises on hind legs peering
like a bear at my lamplit window,
swaying slightly, forelegs out-thrust,
then drops and walks its lumbering walk
into darkness, for a moment
I am wholer than before –
as if joined with the self
I am always losing, who is curious
and curiously sure. Who embraces
all things in its calm regard,
never troubles itself
with forethought of death, and always
in the black light of darkness
sees its slow-stepping way.

And finally, from Terry Tempest Williams 

The great silences of the desert are not void of sound.
    but void of distractions.
One day, this landscape will take
    the language out of me.

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