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A Relationship With Nature

20171109_151127A meander through Grant Woods


I came across a story yesterday about one of my favorite botanists/authors. Dr. Robin Kimmerer, author of “Braiding Sweetgrass”, asks her students to raise their hands if they love nature. A room full of young environmentalists, of course they all raise their hands. Then she asks them to keep their hands up if nature loves them back. All of the hands come down. They were on fire to fix nature, but didn’t believe that nature would respond to them, would nurture them right back.

When I read that, I felt like a lightening bolt had struck me. Of course! We hear all the time that our natural world is broken. And it is, or nearly so, in some instances. It can heal if we give it a chance, though. But what is really needing our attention is our broken relationship to the natural world. Somehow we’ve gotten too sophisticated, too rational, to believe in the sentience of the natural world. That feels like superstitious nonsense in today’s high-tech world.

Sensitive gardeners know, though. Oh sure, they know they can blast a weed with weedkiller. But they also know that if they pay attention, they realize the specific weed that is growing there is communicating something. Some weeds, for instance, love the acidic soil where your neighbors always let their dogs urinate. Not only are they communicating the condition of the soil to you, if left alone they will help correct the problem. Treading lightly, nurturing one’s soil brings an abundant response in the garden. This is so in forests, oceans, prairies, too.

Have you ever felt a tug at your consciousness as you walk along a trail, and turn your head to see a delightful surprise? Once I was shivering along on a late winter day as the ice was beginning to break up on the river. I felt such a nudge and turned in time to see a river otter gleefully sliding from the ice into the water. There was a time when people took it as a matter of course that the natural world was reaching out to them, speaking to them. Responding. And yes, loving. How much richer all our lives can be if we once again tap into this relationship that is waiting, just outside our door.

33 thoughts on “A Relationship With Nature

  1. Lovely post and painting.

    1. Thanks Kim. I felt shy about sharing my thoughts~afraid I’d sound like a kook 🙂

  2. Thank you so much Kim!

  3. Beautiful path and view in your painting! I love the sky.

    1. Thank you! I’ve been tinkering with this one, bluing the distant areas and spattering the trail in the foreground but the sky I leave alone. I have to laugh at myself because it is a monster canvas and to spatter means laying it on the floor where the spatters won’t get anything else. OOF! Pete finds the whole thing quite amusing 🙂

  4. Love this post so much! Nature has always been my church, where I feel connected to the universe in a way I never felt from any religion. Spending more time outdoors would help so many people. It absolutely does heal!

    1. Thank you Angela! She is where I find God as well. I ache for people who have no access to her.

  5. Beautiful colors in your painting. And your message – I’ve always believed in the restorative power of nature, it’s what drives my work in nature photography.

  6. When I read “lightning bolt” my mind turned the first word into “frightening.” It occurs to me now, though, that “brightening bolt” makes for a good description of your painting. It makes me wish we could easily step from Texas back into Grant Woods and see the place in its fall display.

  7. “Brightening bolt”~I like that! Oh I wish so too and you and Eve would have felt comfortable here all through September and October. With November, however, reality has returned and it is cold cold cold here. sigh.

  8. I love the double meaning of your painting’s title. Since a meander can be both a stream and a leisurely stroll, I decided that the painting might represent a stroll along a stream.
    Consciousness meanders, too, and following its flow can be rewarding.

    I spent a few minutes trying to figure out whether the name of the Grant Woods Preserve might be a sly tribute to the midwestern artist, Grant Wood. I didn’t find anything at all about the name — although hikers on Yelp certainly do like the place!

    As it happens, I read a wonderful piece in The Paris Review this morning titled, “The Case for Seasonal Sentimentality.” I think it fits well with what you’ve written, and that you’ll enjoy it.

    1. “Meander” is one of my favorite words. Here, most streams were cruelly channelized for the convenience of developers. Slowly, some of them are being encouraged to meander once again and I rejoice.
      I attended Grant H.S., adjacent to Grant Woods. I believe they are named for an early resident. I love the link with Grant Wood! His work is wonderful. I’ll have to point it out to the steward there, my friend Joyce. She has filled her home with art so she’ll appreciate it.

      1. Our word meander comes from Maiandros, the ancient Greek name of a river in Phrygia (now a part of Turkey) that was particularly winding.

        Grant Wood was one of the first painters I learned about. It seems we had a good elementary school.

      2. I remember sitting in a circle on the floor while a teacher held up images of paintings by Grant Wood and others. I’ll bet they don’t do that anymore~we were fortunate.
        That is interesting about how “meander” has wended its way to us.

      3. When schools spend so much time now on things like “self-esteem” and “inclusion,” there’s not as much time for art.

        By the way, obviously I can still get to this post, which I did via the notification menu on WordPress, but if I try to go directly to I still get taken to the dead end I mentioned to you, the one that says “This domain is parked with AUTOMATTIC.”

      4. So I’ve been poking around and at first it looked like they’d completely deleted my original blog, which dated all the way back to 2010! Following your link, I found them all again but it isn’t clear whether I can resuscitate it to write more. Like you, when I click on it I end up at that dead-end. Oh bother. This is why I want to leave wordpress. Melissa Melissa Pierson

        Artist and Proprietor, Melissa Blue Fine 224-440-4353 Paintings making natural connections

      5. I’d still encourage you to try getting help from a “happiness engineer” at WordPress, if for no other reason than maintaining access to all your existing posts and the people who’ve commented on them.

  9. How do I get to a happiness engineer? I think now that I’m back to a free blog all they offer is the forum.

    1. I am so aggravated! I have spent the entire morning trying to either get the old blog back or at least get the new one set up, and it WON’T WORK!!!! I’m sorry Steve, but I need to move on.

  10. A relationship with nature is essential if we are to survive in our technological world. I hope you are sorting things out with your blog. This is how to contact a Happiness Engineer if you don’t have live chat.

    1. They aren’t interested, apparently, in talking with me since I dropped back down to a free blog. I’m playing around with a site on squarespace but so far not sure I’ll make the switch.

      1. squarespace looks interesting, with beautiful templates.

      2. Yes it does and if it lets me combine everything and do it more creatively it might be just the thing. I’m busy tinkering with it and will have to go live or give up pretty soon.

  11. You’re right it absolutely is. Plus people will feel a whole lot better!
    Thanks for the link!

  12. I think it is hard to think of nature as loving because sometimes her actions seem random, unconscious and sometimes very brutal. I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts on nature’s love – super interesting! She’s definitely the number one nurturer. And though her consciousness is not a “thinking consciousness” like that of humans, she is definitely conscious. For me, what comes to mind, is the chemical communication of plants and insects (I’m thinking of this podcast on RadioLab titled From Tree To Shining Tree)… like what you said about plants in your garden communicating. I guess that may seem like a “cold consciousness” but isn’t our love the movement of chemicals too. And this movement allows for communication and connectedness. And a lot of nature is random but within a set of rules (or big-picture, universal meaning). I liked how you described your river otter nudge. Quite special when that happens! 🙂

    Your painting is wonderful. So lush with colour. And the title is lovely. Makes me misssssss summer!

    1. And when people pick up a weapon and kill, like in these mass shootings, it is hard to see that as ok with the Universe in any way.
      Thank you ~I’m glad you like it. It makes me miss summer too 🙂

      1. Ug. That is definitely more random, senseless and f-ed up than any “natural disaster”. It seems that the Universe holds the whole range from blissfully nurturing to horribly destructive and perhaps all aspects of nature (humans included, other living creatures and the non-living stuff) can express this range.

        The forest always embraces me when I visit her and manages to slip at least a little joy and openness into my heart. Does she love me? Maybe. I’ll keep thinking about it. 🙂

  13. I hope that you find that she does 🙂

  14. Nature, my muse for poetry. Enjoyed your post.

    1. She is a rich and varied source of inspiration, to be sure.

  15. A wonderful painting to go with a thoughtful and informative post.
    We need to listen to our bodies and the world we live in and nurture them both.
    I do enjoy your thoughts and paintings Melissa.

    1. Thank you very much Kevin. I am delighted to hear from you! Your blog is a refreshing site that I am enjoying very much.

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