After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.—Walt Whitman, Specimen Days and Collect
The past two weeks I have come to fully understand the quote above by Walt Whitman from his book Specimen Days. I had not read the book and was reminded of it from an article by Maria Popova online at Brain Pickings.
At fifty-four, ten years after his volunteer service as a nurse in the Civil War opened his awareness to the connection of the body and mind, Walt Whitman suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed.
As he allowed nature to nurse him back to life, Whitman found himself reflecting on the most elemental questions of existence — what makes a life worth living, worth remembering?
Camping in the Tahoe National Forest near Stampede Reservoir recently, I have been joyfully enveloped in nature’s embrace. Most days were so quiet that the only sound to be heard was the wind softly blowing through the trees.
And what trees they are! Stately pines living together in this forest. Living with the chipmunks who have burrowed under their roots jutting out on a dry bank. Providing perches and sleeping quarters for the myriad of birds who flock here. A community of trees, working together and doing their darndest to filter and clean the often wildfire smoke-filled atmosphere. Glorious, shade-giving trees that I had the immense joy of living with.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980, I lived for two short years near Lake Tahoe, taking joy in exploring and living in nature, in the forest with trees. It has been a sweet dream to be back 40 years later, living like a local and rediscovering this incredible place. The Sierra’s and their forests are a treasure that I feel such gratitude for today.