Part 2: What They’ve Said–Meditations on Nature

This is the second installment of a collection of thoughts that comment on or raise questions about nature, animals, conservation and related topics. Some of these observations are inspirational; many are just perspectives from a particular view point that bespeak the ways in which people relate to what is sometimes called the natural world.

The first installment of this collection appeared last week and featured quotations about conservation and relating to nature.  I’ve marked members of the NWF Conservation Hall of Fame with an asterisk and have linked their names to information about them.



Arizona's Aravaipa Wilderness by Cynthia Buness
Hikers melt into Arizona's Aravaipa Wilderness. (Cynthia Buness)


I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition . . .
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself

The life of a wild animal always has a tragic end.
– Ernest Thompson Seton,* Wild Animals I Have Known

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
– D.H. Lawrence

If a wolf passes your tent in the wilderness, he is likely to be less unpleasant than your next-door-neighbor back home.
– John James Audubon*

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.  Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.  We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves.  And therein we err, and greatly err.  For the animal shall not be measured by man.  In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
– Henry Beston, The Outermost House

Though the boys throw stones at the frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport but in earnest.
– Ancient Greek Adage

Dolly Sods National Wilderness Area in West Virginia by Sharon Dalton
Autumn brightens West Virginia's Dolly Sods National Wilderness Area (Credit: Sharon Dalton)

Wild Lands

Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization.
– Aldo Leopold*, A Sand County Almanac

Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clean air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste. . . .  We need wilderness preserved—as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds—because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed.  The reminder and the reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in ten years set foot in it.”
– Wallace Stegner,* The Rockies Filled with the South of Mountain Water

Wilderness is a resource which can shrink but not grow.  Invasions can arrested or modified in a manner to keep an area usable either for recreation, or for science, or for wildlife, but the creation of new wilderness in the full sense of the word is impossible.
– Aldo Leopold*

As a rule the nations that have wilderness do not want it, and those that want it do not have it.
– Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind

Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumor of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war,
Might never reach me more.
– William Cowper

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.
– Ogden Nash

Antarctic Peninsula by Spenser Case
Sunlight haloes the ethereal world of the Antarctic Peninsula (Credit: Spenser Case)

Reverence for Nature

Touch the earth, love the earth, honour the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places.  For the gifts of life are the earth’s, and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach.

– Henry Beston, The Outermost House

And, O sovereign Lord! since it has pleased thee to endue man with power and pre-eminence here on earth, and establish his domination over all creatures, may we look up to thee, that our understanding may be so illuminated with wisdom, and our hearts warmed and animated with a due sense of charity, that we may be enabled to do thy will, and perform our duty towards those submitted to our service and protection, and be merciful to them, even as we hope for mercy.
Thus may we be worthy of the dignity and superiority of the high and distinguished station in which thou hast placed us here on earth.
– William Bartram, The Travels of William Bartram, 1791.

Published: October 26, 2010