By Luke Miller
I’m a creature of habit. That means weekday breakfast with Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell. But even a news junkie needs to get away from the pundits once in a while. And a cup of joe on the patio offers the perfect opportunity.
Even though I live in the city, it’s generally quite peaceful in my backyard, so it’s easy to get lost in the surroundings, especially when the weather is cooperating. I remember one morning that was particularly nice.
It was a picture-perfect day, around 70 degrees with a slight breeze -- just enough to keep the bugs away. The birds chirped, the squirrels played, and my dogs lounged contentedly. Because rain had been plentiful, the yard never looked better.
I was so enthralled with this slice of Eden that I lost track of time. I was in the NOW. No regrets rising from the past, no worries dripping down from the future. As a result, I was at utter peace -- with myself and with the world.
That’s a pretty tall order to fill after watching a morning’s worth of news. But nature was up to the challenge.
Way back in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge spoke about nature’s ability to restore the spirit.
“There is new life in the soil for every man,” he said. “There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between nature and peace. Recently, a friend of mine died just short of her 98th birthday. Ida Ruth was a lifelong gardener and environmental steward who delighted in walking woodland trails and inspecting ephemeral flowers sprouting in the leaf litter. Even in her 90s, when she relied on ski poles to keep her balance, she continued to hike the trails.
When weather was an issue, she had her nature books to fall back on. And, of course, the many birdfeeders outside her kitchen window. The latter provided sustenance – literally for the birds, figuratively for Ida Ruth – during the long, gray months of winter. Nature was her tonic. But it was also her link with creation.
No doubt Ida Ruth would have identified with a quote from nineteenth-century conservationist John Muir. “No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty,” Muir wrote. “Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening -- still all is Beauty!”
Nature is indeed full of beauty. Full of life and death, too. But mostly it’s full of change.
An esteemed Roman emperor touched on that very subject two millennia ago. “Observe always that everything is the result of change,” wrote Marcus Aurelius, “and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and make new ones with them.”
My friend Ida Ruth has indeed taken on a new form. What it is, I do not know. Those of us who were touched by her kindness and blessed by her wisdom here on earth have but one wish for her: that her love of nature -- and the connection it fostered with creation -- will continue through eternity.