The Friendship of Nature



    IS not our love of Nature only the sentiment of abounding vitality and rugged self-reliance? In his prime a man is unacquainted with fear, his look is outward upon the bright changing face of the earth, so fresh, so beautiful, so untouched by time, so vigorous, so unafraid. He may have a genius for society and spend his useful life in one of a thousand glittering successful ways, with hardly a thought for nature; or he may have a genius for solitude and introspection, and walk apart from his fellows, “a lover of the forest ways.” The trees and the hills may appeal to him, and the sea tell him wonderful stories with its old monotonous voice, so that he is content and even happy by himself with little human [Page 141] companionship. To-day is enough for him; the birds are his musicians, and he has said in his heart, “I will commune with the Great Mother.” And so long as he is young and well, with that temperament, his solitary habit may suffice, and in lonely silence he may find solace for the common griefs and disappointments of men.
    But let him fall for an hour below the normal level of health, let the sudden sweeping cut of sickness come upon him, and the pith of all his brave credulity will melt away. His adored monitor and mistress cannot break her adamantine silence for the sake of one poor mortal; he no longer finds in her countenance the sympathy he fancied was resident there; in truth it was no more than the shadow of his own exceeding great desire and superabundant vitality; and now that the need of help or sympathy or understanding is come, he must turn to his own kind.
    There is in reality a power in Nature to rest and console us; but few are so strong as [Page 142] to be able to rely on that lonely beneficence; and we must seek the gentler aid of our fellow beings. Indeed, only those who are humane at heart can rightly hear the obscure word of Nature; while those who have been reared not far from the wild school of the forest make the best citizens and friends.
    Perhaps the greatest boon that we can receive from Nature is health. Our friendship with her should give us sanity first of all. The strain of life in these days in our cities is apt to become excessive in two directions: We are apt to become wholly engrossed in affairs and suffer from sheer physical exhaustion, or we may become too completely and dangerously detached from the current interests of existence. Either one may mean madness and death. But a daily contact with the elements, with elemental conditions of being – sunshine, and rain, and roads, and honest grass, and the swish of winds in the trees – is a sedative and tonic in one. To know the kindliness of Nature we must take constant care to [Page 143] abide by her customs, not to hurry over duty nor to tarry too long, but to move with the appointed rhythm she has bestowed upon us, each man true to his own measure, and so in accord with his fellows and not a variance with the purpose of creation [Page 144].