"Adopt the pace of Nature.
Her secret is patience."
It was satisfying to turn my calendar at work to November and discover this Emerson quotation and autumnal woodcut print. The title of my blog, "natural revelations," comes from the term used to denote revelation we can receive about the nature of God via nature itself. This is sometimes called "general revelation," but I prefer "natural revelation" because of its implication that truths about God are revealed by the natural world.
Patience is certainly one of those divine characteristics revealed throughout nature.
And yet, it is one that most of us so vehemently push against. I am no different. Henry David Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," and I think our state of constant hurry is part of this desperation: that it is often both cause and effect.
Shakespeare said, "How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?"
Whether we're referring to desire for growth and personal transformation, emotional satisfaction of some kind, or the realization of hopes, dreams, or answered prayers, how we balk against the need to be still, to hold our place and our peace with dignity. Consider Emerson's description of how wildlife teaches us patience:
Do you know how the naturalist learns all the secrets of the forest, of plants, of birds, of beasts, of reptiles, of fishes, of the rivers and the sea? When he goes into the woods the birds fly before him and he finds none; when he goes to the river-bank, the fish and the reptile swim away and leave him alone. His secret is patience; he sits down, and
sits still; he is a statue; he is a log. These creatures have no value for their time, and he
must put as low a rate on his. By dint of obstinate sitting still, reptile, fish, bird and
beast, which all wish to return to their haunts, begin to return. He sits still; if they
approach, he remains passive as the stone he sits upon. They lose their fear. They
have curiosity too about him.
The rush, the bluster, the swift, and the urgent create the disorienting cacophony of modern life: jarring, disjointed, fragmented, dissonant. We cannot attract valuable things to us in such a noise and frenzy. So much of worth must be gently coaxed, attentively courted, and allowed to unfold organically and with nobility.
Enjoy this poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
Patience Taught by Nature
“O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;—
But so much patience, as a blade of grass
Grows by contented through the heat and cold.
And since trees are an especial favorite of mine (meriting more posts), let me for now close with this Mary Oliver poem:
WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often. Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches. And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine."
To "never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often."
Oh, to emulate this way of being in the world!