Our relationship with nature is as old as our origin. It encompasses every aspect of our life. It was the fountainhead of spiritual vitality of our race. Our ancestors, irrespective of where they belonged to, have unequivocally praised it. For it not provided the material needs for survival, it satiated our yearning for something transcendent. Nature in its varied manifestations, from snow Cladded Mountain ranges, to the vast expanse of rain-forests and seemingly unending prairies; has soothed, healed, comforted, inspired and rejuvenated the jaded soul of humanity.
And it was his rendezvous with the Nature that he first put to the paper. It allowed posterity to draw from her ever present nectar. Every spiritual tradition has espoused nature and its bounties. But with changing winds of time, our perception towards both, nature and spirituality has changed, rather drastically. In the hustle of new age life, we have forgotten to look at the tree and see beauty of it. We have become indifferent to the chirping of the birds. It is a generation that might not have seen fireflies. We are drowning in the endless sensual momentarily pleasures, without realizing that we are missing the woods for trees.
And, there are books which helps us pause for a moment. They help us reclaim our souls from the crude and thoughtless pursuits. They describe the profundity of experience one receives in being with nature. They are the first-hand account of how deep appreciation of nature invariably leads one to the spirituality. Spiritual longing finds its repose in the lap of Mother Nature. Books listed below are the best testimony of it.
- Pilgrims to The Wild: Everett Ruess, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Clarence King, Mary Austin – This books records the encounter of these writers with nature. This book contains letters of young American artist, poet and writer, Everett Ruess, who was known for his solo exploration of different parts of America and eventually disappeared in canyonlands, Utah. It contains one of the most important lectures of Henry David Thoreau, titled ‘Walking’. Walking is a lecture pressing the idea that nature itself is a spiritual experience. It also introduces to reader the wonderful writing of John Muie, a mountaineer and naturalist author and Clarence King-an American geologist and author.
- Dirt – The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan. He was an arborist and a columnist at the New York Times traverses geological, agricultural and spiritual dimensions of the Dirt in his book. Not only the book but its review is also equally intriguing when Los Angeles Times Book Review calls it ‘a poetic book, like the best natural histories, Dirt is a kind of prayer’. Keeping with its name this book is a collection of memoirs of the author’s encounters with dirt. It provokes you into thinking about the very nature of soil and ourselves. It refers to attitude of Thomas Jafferson and John Adams towards agriculture and weaves beautifully the story of St. Phocas- a patron saint of gardening.
- Cave in the Snow by Vickie Magazine. This book – a biography depicts the story of venerable Tenzin Palmo.-one of the the first western women to be ordained as nun in Tibetan Buddhism. She was born as Diane Perry in England in 1943 to a fishmonger in London’s East End. Her reading of the book ‘The mind unshaken’ during her family trip to Germany was a first call for her to explore the path of spirituality. She traveled to Dalhousie – India where she met her teacher, Khamtrul Rinpoche. It is his teacher’s instructions to practice lead her to Himalayan mountain cave. Situated at ‘Lahoul’ in Indian State of Himachal Pradesh, above thirteen thousands, she spent next twelve years. This biographical account charts the days of her life in the cave and how it unfolds the realization. She remarked upon her experience of the solitary retreat in the cave as follows. “Of course when you do prolonged retreats you are going to have experiences of great intensity”.
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. It is a 1998 autobiographical book written in 1998. It describes his attempt to track on Appalachian Trail in Springer Mountain in the eastern United States. The book is so compelling in its narration of lush green forests and pristine lakes that it easily becomes an easy allure for long outdoor adventure. This expedition undertaken with his friend Stephen Katz soon begins to manifest its enormity that results in long detours. This book was such a classic that in 2015 it was adapted into the film featuring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson.
- The Findhorn Garden by Findhorn Community. This book presents the mysterious account of members of the Scottish agricultural community. It charts the evolution of Findhorn Foundation, a Scottish charitable trust formed in 1972. This community is flourished in n windswept and barren sand dunes of northern Scotland. It happens to grow plants, flowers, trees and vegetables of considerable size. It was asserted that this wondrous garden is the result of community’s occult practices to connect with nature spirits. It may easily raise the brows of a skeptic but success of the garden cannot be simply brushed aside.
- Upstream: selected essays by Mary Oliver. Pulitzer Prize winner poet Mary Oliver’s these essays emerges from her years of amazement in nature. She reflects in it how in her child and adult life she was lost in the beauty of the nature and that of words. She wrote, “I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple”.
- Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World by Linda Hogan. She expresses her great reverence and concern for the dwelling we all share, the nature. She hailing from native Chickasaw community brings an Indian perspective to understand how people should relate with the nature. In this paean carrying meditations on the natural world, she offers her devotion to life infusing elements of nature.
- The Sakura Obsession: The Incredible Story of the Plant Hunter Who Saved Japan’s Cherry Blossoms by Naoko Abe. This is yet another book which has subtle spiritual undertone to it. It was Abe’s first English book which won him in 2016 Nihon Essayist Club Award. It chronicles travels and adventures of an eccentric English man Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram who got captivated with the beauty of Japanese cherries in 1907. He was so bespelled with it that he brought back hundreds of tree cutting with him to England and created his own garden. Little had he thought that one day he would save his ‘muse’ from getting extinct from the Japan. He learned in 1926 that ‘Sakura’ – Great White Cherry had become extinct in Japan. To repopulate the Cherries, he sent off the living cutting to Japan in Trans-Siberian Express. This book showcases how indebted the world is to him for preserving ‘Sakura’ which carries a long history and identifies itself with the culture of Japan.
- Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman – a collection of poems by America’s one of the most celebrated poets – also known as ‘America’s Shakespeare’ is indeed a treat. It was originally published in 1855 and undergone editions. The latest edition houses almost four hundred poems. Walt Whitman was influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and was drawn towards romanticism. The book for its style and content was termed as scandalous and was severally criticized. So much so that Poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass. Only that he did not burn it afterwards. On the other hand critic William Michael Rosseti considered it a classic. His poems steer away from the religiosity towards praising the nature and individual’s role in it. The role he best described as – This is what you shall do. ‘Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks’.
- Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino, William Weaver (Translator) – this book is an imaginative interpretation about the evolution of the universe. It is a collection of twelve short stories by Italian Author Italo Calvino. It was first published in 1965 in Italian and in English in 1968. Every story builds a beautiful story about a scientific cosmic fact. It is rather a fascinating way to connect the events of the unimaginable galactic scale to the everyday mundane life. Yet, Calvino with his sheer power of imagination achieves it. Equally imaginative was the translation of this book which won William Weaver National Book Award in 1969.
- Nature Worship in India by M. L. Varadpande. This interesting book by a prolific writer on the arts and culture of India explains in this book an Indian tradition of nature worship. It tries to reach to its ancient roots and how it is still practiced in immediate present. He brings to surface hitherto unknown elements of Nature worship in India like tree shines.