literature of loss
I love naturalist John Muir’s words written long ago from Yosemite that “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” I often hear persons in grief still echo his words of truth. Over and over, persons tell me of experiences in nature which have nurtured their path into healing and restoration of emotional strength. Whether it is the visit of a swarm of yellow butterflies at a memorial service, beginning a morning cup of coffee looking out at the flaming maple tree planted in memory of a red-haired daughter, or collecting rocks from the Kiniksu National Forest beloved by a son, these moments give harbingers of hope that life will continue with meaning and joy again. For my husband, backpacking for a week of solitude in the Olympic Rain Forest with our retriever Scout, two years after our daughter died, became a gentle turning point towards peace.
A contemporary naturalist from Oregon, Kathleen Dean Moore, writes of a season where several devastating deaths left her immersed in sorrow. So she turned to the comfort of the wild to see what the natural world might teach her about sorrow and gladness. She writes meditations of these excursions of tracking otters on the beach, wading among migrating salmon in the dark, cooking breakfast in the desert, canoeing in a snow squall in her book Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature. She found such intentional connection to the natural world gave reassurance to her soul, moving her to hope and courage, healing and gratitude. As she expresses,
“I have felt their peace, the steady surge and flow of the sea on sand, water slipping over stones. There is meaning in the natural rhythms of dying and living, winter and spring, bones and leaves. Even in times of bewilderment or despair, there is steadfast ground underfoot–pine duff, baked clay, stone turned red in the rain. I am trying to understand this, the power of water, air, earth, and time to bring gladness gradually from grief and to restore meaning to lives that seem empty or unmoored.”
When I walk outside, the leaves on our Witch Hazel, burning bush, lace-leaf Japanese maples, and Virginia Creeper have begun their magic metamorphosis…and my heart still leaps at their stunning beauty.
Have moments in nature offered solace for you? I’d love to hear your stories!