Esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke

sea

Water is life. Without it we would perish. Our planet, the Earth, is exceptional for seventy- percent is covered by water, yet much of it is not potable being as the oceans and seas are too saline for humans to consume, but perfect for the countless animals and plants that coexist in its realm; from microscopic plankton to the giant blue whale; they can thrive within its boundaries. Though not all is salty; fresh water exists in all states of matter from foggy vapors to sheets of ice to running streams…

We turn on spigots when we are thirsty, purchase bottles of it to carry about, catch it when it is scarce, and pay homage to it for its return through prayers. We even go out of our way to vacation near it, live by it, or build pools to swim in it. We use it to clean, to soak, to wash, to nourish our plants. But with seemingly an abundant supply of this miracle substance, there are many who are not as lucky and its scarcity has sent generations of people in search or even war over it; while others have to build and secure methods in order for water to reach their lands and homes. Our love affair with water however is fickle and though we are ecstatic with its arrival during droughts, there are times when we curse its presence…like during floods.

Yet, no one can resist the beauty of water; it takes a multitude of forms and allows our senses to go through as many sensations and emotions as there are ways. The oceans’ shores are mesmerizing with their soothing churn of the tide… where eyes gaze out onto a distant horizon line and then our curiosity leaps over and steps beyond. The thunder of the river foams as though boiling in anger, crashing and cascading over rocks pounding and pummeling all in its path. The misty rain can be as gentle as an atomizer or as harsh as a hailstorm of pebbles. It can put one to sleep or wake us out of a sound dream.

And so, water holds great power over humanity, although most do not think much about it taking its existence for granted that it will always there, available, and clean…yet like all things in nature, the Earth is in a constant flux; changing ever so slightly as with erosion or with one grand natural disaster, as in an earthquake. Nevertheless, what does not change is the simple fact about water… we are beholden to it…

rupert brooke Today’s blog introduces a man who is not known today by many readers yet in his lifetime he held the title of being a literary national hero even though he died at the young the age of twenty- seven. I present to you the esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke (1887-1915 ). English born poet, scholar, dramatist, literary critic, travel writer, political activist and soldier, his work exemplified patriotism and lyrical genius. Also known for his good looks and sentimental poetry, he made influential friends in both literary and political circles; an illustrious line-up of names such as Winston Churchill, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and Yeats, who once described him as “the handsomest man in England”. Brooke lived during a grey period in England’s history, the start of World War I after which he earned notoriety as ‘one of the famous War Poets of the First World War’.

His quite famous work “The Soldier” is one that will most likely ring a bell to those who read poetry…Here are just a few lines to rouse your memory …
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;…

I now bring you the words of Rupert Brooke, extracted from a letter he sent to the Westminster Gazette in 1913 about his trip to Niagara Falls.

“…. He who sees them instantly forgets humanity. They are not very high, but they are overpowering. They are divided by an island into two parts, the Canadian and the American.

Half a mile or so above the Falls, on either side, the water of the great stream begins to run more swiftly and in confusion. It descends with ever-growing speed. It begins chattering and leaping, breaking into a thousand ripples, throwing up joyful fingers of spray. Sometimes it is divided by islands and rocks, sometimes the eye can see nothing but a waste of laughing, springing, foamy waves, turning, crossing, even seeming to stand for an instant erect, but always borne impetuously forward like a crowd of triumphant feasters. Sit close down by it, and you see a fragment of the torrent against the sky, mottled, steely, and foaming, leaping onward in far-flung criss-cross strands of water. Perpetually the eye is on the point of descrying a pattern in this weaving, and perpetually it is cheated by change. In one place part of the flood plunges over a ledge a few feet high and a quarter of a mile or so long, in a uniform and stable curve. It gives an impression of almost military concerted movement, grown suddenly out of confusion. But it is swiftly lost again in the multitudinous tossing merriment. Here and there a rock close to the surface is marked by a white wave that faces backwards and seems to be rushing madly up-stream, but is really stationary in the headlong charge. But for these signs of reluctance, the waters seem to fling themselves on with some foreknowledge of their fate, in an ever wilder frenzy…

But there they change. As they turn to the sheer descent, the white and blue and slate color, in the heart of the Canadian Falls at least, blend and deepen to a rich, wonderful, luminous green. On the edge of disaster the river seems to gather herself, to pause, to lift a head noble in ruin, and then, with a slow grandeur, to plunge into the eternal thunder and white chaos below… “

John Burroughs and time

strata zion national park_ burroughs post There is little doubt to most of us that the things we do and the pace we live continues to accelerate, and when simple actions and events come to a stand still for reasons that we have no control over, it creates disappointment and frustration. Individually, one cannot be at blamed for having taken on these feelings, for as our everyday rate of interaction speeds up, it has become quite clear that one has to hang on or be left behind.

However, within all this acceleration and an often self-imposed race to the top, it is most interesting to observe that our planet Earth has maintained an even and steady course, while continuing to change, evolve, and exhibit stunning effects. Slowly, very slowly, very methodically she turns rocks into sand and mountains into valleys. Her time is geological and as the saying goes, “has all the time in the world.” And though humans have journeyed a parallel road, our existence is as brief as a flicker of light.

Take witness to Earth’s miraculous changes and transformations within the sights and vistas; the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Cliffs of Dover. All are a product of time which needs no calendar to interpret age, but rather the striations on rocks or the rings within a tree trunk.

And though we find that we must keep up and maintain the haste of each day, our time is akin to a footprint on the ocean’s shore…so take the advice of Mother Earth and enjoy the caress of the water, and make as deep but kindly impression as you can within the sands of our time….

John burroughs 2 Today’s blog has invited back the esteemed thinker: John Burroughs (1837-1921) best known as one of the literary caretakers of nature. And though he lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, his philosophy for everyday life has maintained its value. We are fortunate to be able to read and observe his work, a tribute to his writing that he had the foresight to document the beauty of nature and its symbiotic relationship with man, Earth, and the surroundings.

From his book, Time and Change (1912) I present to you a short but poignant piece extracted for your reading pleasure. Here are the words of Mr. Burroughs…

“… I am well aware that my own interest in geology far outruns my knowledge, but if I can in some degree kindle that interest in my reader, I shall be putting him on the road to a fuller knowledge than I possess. As with other phases of nature, I have probably loved the rocks more than I have studied them. In my youth I delighted in lingering about and beneath the ledges of my native hills, partly in the spirit of adventure and a boy’s love of the wild, and partly with an eye to their curious forms, and the evidences of immense time that looked out from their gray and crumbling fronts. I was in the presence of Geologic Time, and was impressed by the scarred and lichen-coated veteran without knowing who or what he was. But he put a spell upon me that has deepened as the years have passed, and now my boyhood ledges are more interesting to me than ever.

If one gains an interest in the history of the earth, he is quite sure to gain an interest in the history of the life on the earth…”

First image: Strata in Zion National Park, Utah, 1946: Carol Highsmith
Second image: John Burroughs in rustic chair, c1901

Esteemed thinker: John Burroughs

robin close up For those who live in a hemisphere that awards the four seasons, it is winter that challenges us to be creative in ways that the other seasons do not. And though we often find ourselves cursing the cold temperatures, there are some who are most fortunate enough to be able to turn discomfort into pleasure… There are some lucky folks that can defrost frosty sentiments by a warm fireplace. In these homes cold hands are reminders to make a mug of hot chocolate, while icy feet walk themselves into a pair of woolly slippers.

And though many would prefer to remain indoors so as not to be bitten by its harsh winds; if you take a look from your window, winter has invited into its world some very enchanting visitors, birds. Look closely among the leafless branches, under the holly bushes, or flitting to and fro, and you may find quite a variety of winged guests, which makes you wonder how it is that they are not cold.

Against the whiteness of snow one notices the scarlet head crest of the cardinal, the black caps and bibs of the chickadees, the iridescent green and purple flossed head of the starlings, and hidden in the house eves are the rust colored sparrows. The birds of winter are like pieces of a rainbow that have broken off and flutter from snow crest to crest; they delight our world from our safe warm place in the winter.

John BurroughsToday’s post introduces the literary naturalist of the ninetieth century,
the esteemed thinker: John Burroughs (1837-1921). Born in Roxbury, N.Y., he is credited as an essayist, environmentalist, and the man who revolutionized the “conservation movement” in the United States. Burroughs quest to become a writer turned favorable when he befriended the poet Walt Whitman, who encouraged him to continue the path he loved. His writings and studies regarding nature later granted him the title of, “The Grand Old Man of Nature.” Best known for his observations of birds, flowers, and rural America, it is his quote that exemplifies his true feelings; “I seldom go into a natural history museum without feeling as if I were attending a funeral.”

From his book titled, Birds, and Bees Sharp Eyes and Other Papers, I have prepared a brief reading. Find a quiet moment to take in the sights revealed by our essayist and champion of nature, Mr. Burroughs….

“…These sparrows are becoming about the most noticeable of my winter neighbors, and a troop of them every morning watch me put out the hens’ feed, and soon claim their share. I rather encouraged them in their neighborliness, till one day I discovered the snow under a favorite plum-tree where they most frequently perched covered with the scales of the fruit-buds. On investigating I found that the tree had been nearly stripped of its buds—a very unneighborly act on the part of the sparrows, considering, too, all the cracked corn I had scattered for them …

… The bird that seems to consider he has the best right to the bone both upon the tree and upon the sill is the downy woodpecker, my favorite neighbor among the winter birds His retreat is but a few paces from my own, in the decayed limb of an apple-tree which he excavated several autumns ago. I say “he” because the red plume on the top of his head proclaims the sex. It seems not to be generally known to our writers upon ornithology that certain of our woodpeckers—probably all the winter residents—each fall excavate a limb or the trunk of a tree in which to pass the winter, and that the cavity is abandoned in the spring, probably for a new one in which nidification takes place. So far as I have observed, these cavities are drilled out only by the males. Where the females take up their quarters I am not so well informed, though I suspect that they use the abandoned holes of the males of the previous year…”

Esteemed thinker: John Muir

muir I am enamored by the seasons in the same way a child discovers the tide; I embrace its mysterious changes like the youngster who scampers in and out, learning that the water goes to- and- fro without ever taking time to rest. For me each new blossom, each tree that sheds its leaves, each bulb that springs up with a flower more lovely than the next is complete wonderment. And so, I enjoy spying upon Mother Nature’s children as if they were my own rather than being a surrogate; taking moments to photograph her family. (I dare share with you a roadside field that decided to flaunt its summer beauty.)

wildflowers

Today’s blog reflects upon the words of the esteemed thinker: John Muir (1838-1914), one of the earliest preservationist in the United States. He was a naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club. John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service, convincing the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks through his writing. John Muir’s words came from his lifetime work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

So, I take you out of your hectic world into a day with John Muir and his observation of trees; feast upon this vivid excerpt from Steep Trails.

“No lover of trees will ever forget his first meeting with the sugar pine. In most coniferous trees there is a sameness of form and expression which at length becomes wearisome to most people who travel far in the woods. But the sugar pines are as free from conventional forms as any of the oaks. No two are so much alike as to hide their individuality from any observer. Every tree is appreciated as a study in itself and proclaims in no uncertain terms the surpassing grandeur of the species. The branches, mostly near the summit, are sometimes nearly forty feet long, feathered richly all around with short, leafy branchlets, and tasseled with cones a foot and a half long. And when these superb arms are outspread, radiating in every direction, an immense crownlike mass is formed which, poised on the noble shaft and filled with sunshine, is one of the grandest forest objects conceivable. But though so wild and unconventional when full-grown, the sugar pine is a remarkably regular tree in youth, a strict follower of coniferous fashions, slim, erect, tapering, symmetrical, every branch in place. At the age of fifty or sixty years this shy, fashionable form begins to give way. Special branches are thrust out away from the general outlines of the trees and bent down with cones. Henceforth it becomes more and more original and independent in style, pushes boldly aloft into the winds and sunshine, growing ever more stately and beautiful, a joy and inspiration to every beholder…”