“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circles of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
~ Albert Einstein ~
I recently finished reading The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf. At 400 pages, this book isn’t a quick read, but it’s worthwhile and enlightening. Born in 1769, “Humboldt gave us our concept of nature itself.” In this amazing book, Wulf describes Humboldt’s life and work as well as his influence on Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir, and countless other scientists, artists, and writers. In fact, Wulf writes, “Humboldt’s views have become so self-evident that we have largely forgotten the man behind them.”
A “sense of wonder for the natural world” lay at the heart of Humboldt’s work and writings, and is also found in the work of his followers. The importance of sharing and nurturing this wonder feels more urgent today than ever.
With Wulf’s words about Humboldt still swirling in my brain, it felt like serendipity when I came across these much-loved lines from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—there are
millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand,
nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
specters in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.
Here’s to listening to the world from all sides and learning the lessons nature is desperately trying to teach us.
Please be sure to visit Violet Nesdoly for the Poetry Friday Roundup.
8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Embracing Nature”
What passion that author conveys. She takes those dusty, reprinted texts and makes the author come alive, over 200 years later. That is magic.
Thanks for sharing this book. I’d like to read it–it seems like a good companion to Last Child in the Woods. Nature does have so much to teach us, if we would just listen. I know the woods and wild places are where I turn.
Catherine, I was just reading those Walt Whitman lines in Poemcrazy, which I bought after reading your recommendation. They resonated with me as well. There are sadly many times when the wonders of nature seem to offer the only solace in our world these days. So often I turn to Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things”–an intersection of poetry and nature. I look forward to learning more about Humboldt. Thanks for sharing.
Alexander Humboldt will soon be much better known again, with a person as passionate as Andrea Wulf championing him. Thanks for introducing us to Renaissance man Humboldt and the book about him!
Your post and Michelle Kogan’s harmonize.
(This sounds like a book I need to read/listen to!)
I did not get to read this book, which is in my summer reading pile…now, thanks to you, it’s at the top of my winter one. Thanks, Catherine!
Love this, Catherine. It’s in my TBR pile. You’ll enjoy “The Hidden Life of Trees” (Wohlleben) which I am reading now. You won’t look at a tree the same way! May we always feel that “sense of wonder.”
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