Six ways to truly enjoy and appreciate nature

by | Dec 17, 2022

Recently, I attended a book sale at a library in Hudson, NY. I came across a small book with no image on the yellow hardcover except the words Pilgrimage to the Tree of Life and Albert Steffen. This book of two essays was originally published in German and contained, “The Preparation,” written in 1910 and “The Way” written in 1923.
The title intrigued me and I wanted to learn what wisdom I could glean from this small book published in 1943.

Here are some insights and gems I found in these essays:

1.  Increase loving care

In order to truly enjoy and appreciate nature, Steffan suggests that we work on ourselves. He writes, “True it is that a man can sit in the spring sun with a comic paper in his hand and feel himself the happiest of mortals. But if he would rise to a true perception of the blue sky and of the budding meadows, the first condition is that he lay aside the paper and begin to work upon himself in a serious way.”

How do we do this, I wondered?

One way is by “increase of loving care.”

“A gardener takes pleasure in his calling only when he feels present and active within himself the same life force through which all grows and becomes, and strives to enhance it.”

What resonated with me:  Deepen our feeling life for the beauty and nuances of our surroundings. Cultivate active perception and attunement to nature. Develop kinship with the natural world.

2.  Look at the beauty of nature

“Go through a park in the spring and look upon the trees: the chestnuts with great brown buds, tenderly folded like little hands, the hazel bushes with their tassels, the elms with the yellow tufts of blossoms, the willows which seem to make a caressing gesture—all this requires many varied and delicate nuances of seeing and feeling.

The soul must really transform herself for the sake of a meadow which puts forth its first boom, must discover herself to the inmost core, must work with all her strength, for lo! Here it gleams and there it sparkles and a hundred changing colors glow in subtle interplay. If only the soul had strength, or knew whence to draw love, without full measure of which there is weariness and dullness.”

My take away: Enliven our souls, the seat of our feeling life, so we can fully love and appreciate the natural world around us. Excellent advice!

3.  Gaze at the sky often

Steffan’s words about the blue sky have stayed with me:

“I love to look upon the meadows, lakes, and arabesques of the trees, but I always return to the blue of the sky because that is the most blessed for my eyes.

And if you feel “impatience and lack of concentration within you,” he writes that to “be freed from these disturbing influences you need only gaze upwards for a while.”

Good advice for all of us: Look up to the sky often during the day. Feel its immensity. See if it shifts any impatience or lack of concentration we may experience.

I will gladly give this a try and gaze at the sky more intentionally and more often!

4.  Attune to nature

Steffan’s attunement to nature is exquisite:

“But more secrets than anyone could tell me about the plants, they themselves revealed.

If before sunrise my garden was clad in shining dew, I knew that a hot bright day was on the ascendant. Midday blue, the red glow of evening, the shimmering stars heralded themselves in the silver drops that were hanging in the calyxes and on the blades of grass.

Only when the little nasturtiums wept would it rain.

The soul of the year is reflected in the plant kingdom. Is there not something morally awakening in the scent of the hyacinth and narcissus, the true spring flowers: Do they not remind us of death and the grave, and the changing of decay into light? Does not the rose, the jewel of summer, quicken the aesthetic sense by its fragrance, in that she frees us from the imprisoning compulsion of the senses and the reason, making us lovely?”

May we all observe nature so closely as to gain these insights and imaginations!

5.  Express gratitude for nature’s bounty

Steffan reflects on fall:

“Only when fall is approaching is a certain pragmatism in its rightful place, but even then it should be accompanied by painstaking, loving care.

The scarlet tomatoes, the dark crimson beets, the frog-green cucumbers, the hundred varieties of sweet-smelling apples—green, yellow and red—all this should bring us comfort and circumspection, inner sun forces even as these work inside the earth where the summer warmth is stored up.

Let us always eat fruit in such a frame of mind that it heartens us, out of thankfulness to the sun; roots, so that they make us reflective, out of gratitude to the moon.

We should really let the earth spirits share in our enjoyment. It is they, after all, who ever and again make things grow.”

Beautifully stated food-for-thought!

6. Connect to the plant

‘And, finally, the human beings’ connection to the plant:’

The plant:

“Then suddenly I understood the archetypal plant. I saw how the plant germinates, grows, blossoms and bears fruit, in order to arise ever anew from the seed, through a whole cosmic age, according to nature’s laws, and how in so doing it connects the earth with the heavens. In the arrangement of the leaves, in the shaping of the blossoms, in the rising and evaporation of the water, in the coming to fullness and paling out of the colors, I discovered a manifold rhythm: tones, counterpoint and accords, the dances of countless spirits.”

And the human being:

“Man has the capacity to carry on consciously the process which the plant undergoes of necessity. He is able to transform it through his own impulse, in that he can color his soul, like the blossoms, lighter or darker—through understanding of man and the world—and make the fruit sweeter, or more bitter—through philanthropy or misanthropy.

I realized that a man must refine his conscience, if he is to take part in the solemn dances of the heavenly hierarchies.”

Final thoughts – our human connection

We are intimately connected—humans and plants and all of nature. All affected by the cosmos. And by our human deeds, we can make the world sweeter or bitter.

When I work with clients, I love helping them to connect with nature and there are many wonderful flower essences that can be supportive.

May the world be made sweeter by our human becoming.

This small book of two essays contains great wisdom. Thank you, Albert Steffen, for your insights. May they bloom and bear fruit in our souls.