In This, I Believe
I believe in the power of natural beauty to restore the soul. As a young girl, I suffered a life changing trauma to body and mind. I was hospitalized for ten days after an accident with injuries entirely above the neck. As I lay in that hospital bed, I had no idea of the change that had already occurred in my life. For the first week I fought off physical discomfort, bad dreams, and anxiety over the possible loss of my left eye. I passed this benchmark, eye damaged, but intact. Classmates began to visit, some out of friendship, some out of curiosity. One curiosity seeker, seeing the damage done to me, experienced faintness. My return to school over a month later was the slap of reality that hospital and home convalescence had delayed. As I boarded the school bus that first day back nearly paralyzed by the silence and stares that announced my entrance, I knew my life would never be the same. I would no longer be at the top of the chemistry class, or display my notorious precociousness. My confidence and promise had been shattered. And yet life goes on. I sought solace in the beauty of nature.
Man is judgmental and cruel, but nature is neutral. Its powerful violence put the scope of my tragedy in perspective. Its calmness quieted my catapulting thoughts. Its continuity encouraged me to take one day at a time, just as the sun rises and sets. Fresh air inhaled deeply, the coolness of a mountain stream, the glory of sunlight streaming through glowing fall leaves, the awe of the vastness of a star studded night sky, the silence of a fresh snow, the rush of the wind through the leaves of a tall tree, cliche’ maybe, but these sensations became my refuge from the discomfort of human interaction, the sadness of expectations unrealized.
Without the beauty of nature I would have faltered and faded away. Instead I married, raised a family, and instilled a love of natural beauty in my children. We have seen the Grand Canyon (it is grand), all five Great Lakes, Niagra Falls, the Gulf of Mexico (from a parasail) and numerous national forests, state parks and rivers. We have seen rattlesnakes basking in the sun, crawfish in a creek, and eagles high in the trees. My children watched me enjoy the world. When my daughter moved into her first house, she could name almost every plant in the yard. I never knew she was listening.
Today I received word that deployment in Iraq is imminent for that same daughter. As I contemplate sending her off to fight for this country, I remain committed to the belief that natural splendor is a vital national resource, with a capacity to heal emotional damage that human love alone, even that as strong as a mother’s, cannot mend. I pray that my daughter will not need it, but I know that other’s will. We must preserve natural beauty for the sake of all wounded souls, especially those damaged in service to this country. This, I believe.
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