In tiny ant that crawls. In bird that flies a Spirit course.
William Wordsworth has long been my favorite poet—both for his deeply personal connection with nature and for his unfailing ability to evoke a passionate felt sense of being present in the hills and meadows of his home in England’s Lake District.
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.”
—William Wordsworth (Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey)
An intrepid walker, Wordsworth spent many months of his life traversing on foot the wilds of his native Cambria as well as making extensive walking tours throughout Europe during the intervals he lived abroad.
Describing himself as a “child of the earth,” Wordsworth was much more than an observer of the natural world. He was a participant in the life of landscape—as were many of the characters in his poems.
Some of Wordsworth’s greatest verses were written while revisiting favorite locales of his childhood.
His Tintern Abbey and Ode (‘Intimations of Immortality’) begin in reflection upon the “celestial light” he found in nature. And then they take a philosophical turn into profound contemplation of eternal verities, lifting both poet and reader into realms of blissful realization that “…in our embers/Is something that doth live/That nature remembers/What was so fugitive.”¹
The Rocky Mountains of my Colorado childhood were for me a similar magnet that still evokes powerful memories of communion with the “life of things”:
Fishing in serenely isolated, willow-lined beaver ponds with my father—being careful not to slap the still water with my little fishing pole, lest I scare the wily fish hiding near the banks.
Feeling myself transported into a “celestial light” while hiking amidst radiant golden aspen trees under the brilliant blue of a cloudless autumn afternoon.
And more recently, tuning into what Irish poet/philosopher John O’Donohue called nature’s remarkable “there-ness” of the mountains and vast landscapes of Wyoming while driving back and forth to Denver from my new home in Montana.
As I open my heart, mind, and vision to these unspoiled expanses of the West, my response is inevitably poetical. Like Wordsworth, I am often moved to tears by the sheer vitality of lakes and streams and rushing waterfalls that kindle in me a recollection of my spiritual home.
And the longing for that ancient soul shelter expresses itself in poems that come from a deeper, wider place of consciousness that I relish, though I cannot claim to understand.
However, I do know that being receptive to nature’s innate hospitality allows me to walk softly on the land and to hear its delicate messages of love and hope and abiding presence that I find—as did Wordsworth—to be a balm upon the ragged energies of life in the modern world.
Here is one of my favorite poems—that came upon me so suddenly, I was forced to pull over at a rest stop in the middle of Wyoming to write these lines that brought joyful tears to my heart.
Green from the thaw
After winter’s icy grey,
Vast, unpeopled spaces greet my eye
As I drive across this landscape
That has become my home.
I used to love autumn best,
When fiery reds and golds
Give one last shout
Before retiring into silence.
But spring calls me now
To welcome possibility,
To don the smile long folded
In a drawer of past delights,
To let the truth of life renewed
Blossom with the promise of summer fruit
And bring me buoyant, dancing joy.
My mind fills up with Nature’s pure example,
And I feel my heart’s revival,
As over high plains grasslands
Gangly antelope babies run and leap
In the sheer exuberance
Of being born upon the green.
¹ from Ode(‘Intimations of Immortality’)