Friday, August 22, 2008


The Enjoyment of Nature

Edwin Way Teale, A Walk Through the Year (January 8):
Along the trails through the woods today, my tracks record where I have turned aside in the snow to examine the form and feel of winter buds. A few I cannot name. I pick them to take home for the pleasure of an indoor identification. But as I see them now, their names unknown, they seem no less beautiful, no less attractive. We can respond to the beauty of a colored cliff without ever knowing whether it is formed of granite or sandstone. We can enjoy the pure hue of a wild flower without ever hearing it referred to as Oenothera biennis or even as the evening primrose. Our enjoyment of nature is not based primarily on instant recognition.

There is something else besides technical knowledge that takes precedence. It is an intensely felt relationship—a relationship compounded of a sense of wonder, a response to beauty, an undying curiosity. This may or may not be associated with an immediate recognition of the identity and an awareness of the the accepted scientific name of the things observed. Gaining that knowledge is a lifelong pursuit. Its attainment represents an added dimension in our nature contacts. But it is the second step. First glance for beauty and interest; second glance for knowledge. It is rarely the man with all the scientific names at the tip of his tongue that has impressed me as enjoying the richest relationship with nature. I have come to believe that it is something else—a simpler, more primitive, more deeply affecting response—that is the common denominator in those to whom their hours out-of-doors have meant the most.
Related post: The Desire for Knowledge and the Names for Things.

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