My great-grandfather grew up in England, but found himself living in New Zealand and later, Tasmania and Victoria. He had a particular love of the natural world, and it seemed to ground him in ways that make the same kind of sense to me.
I was thinking about how travelling and a kind of nomadic life are often espoused as the good life, and how a sense of place and belonging and having roots is what matters to me most. And then I was thinking about how the places you belong to are a thread you can look for in the new places you go. Does that make sense? I guess it’s a kind of yearning for the familiar landscapes and feelings and weather, even.
So, I’ve been reading some books with these kinds of nature-ish themes, and then I thought it would be good to get one of my great-grandfather’s books out and see what he has to say about it.
Here is one of his nature-ish things …
On Getting Over Things
We get over things. It is the most amazing faculty that we possess. War or pestilence; drought or famine; fire or flood; it does not matter. However devastating the catastrophe, however frightful the slaughter, however total the eclipse, we surmount our sorrows and find ourselves still smiling when the storm is overpast.
I remember once penetrating into the wild and desolate interior of New Zealand. From a jagged and lonely
eminence I surveyed a landscape that almost frightened one. Not a house was in sight, nor a road, nor one
living creature, nor any sign of civilization. I looked in every direction at what seemed to have been the work of angry Titans.
Far as the eye could see, the earth around me appeared to have been a battle-field on which an army of giants had pelted each other with mountains. The whole country was broken, weird, precipitous, and grand. In every direction huge cliffs towered perpendicularly about you; bottomless abysses yawned at your feet; and every scarped pinnacle and beetling crag scowled menacingly at your littleness and scowled defiance at your approach.
One wondered by what titanic forces the country had been so ruthlessly crushed and crumbled and torn to shreds. Did any startled eye witness this volcanic frolic? What a sight it must have been to have watched these towering ranges spat and scattered; to have seen the placid snowclad heights shivered, like fragile vases, to fragments; to have beheld the mountains tossed about like pebbles; to have seen the valleys torn and bent and twisted; and the rivers flung back in terror to make for themselves new channels as best they could!
It must have been a fearsome and wondrous spectacle to have observed the slumbering forces of the universe in such a burst of passion! Nature must have despaired of her quiet and sylvan landscape.
‘It is ruined,’ she sobbed; ‘it can never be the same again!’ No, it can never be the same again. The bright colours of the kaleidoscope do not form the same mosaic a second time. But Nature has got over her grief, for all that.
For see! All up these tortured and angular valleys the great evergreen bush is growing in luxurious profusion. Every slope is densely clothed with a glorious tangle of magnificent forestry. From the branches that wave triumphantly from the dizzy heights above, to those that mingle with the delicate mosses in the valley, the verdure nowhere knows a break.
Even on the steep rocky faces the persistent vegetation somehow finds for itself a precarious foothold; and where the trees fear to venture the lichen atones for their absence. Up through every crack and cranny the ferns are pushing their graceful fronds.
It is a marvellous recovery.
Indeed, the landscape is really better worth seeing to-day than in those tranquil days, centuries ago, before the Titans lost their temper, and began to splinter the summits.
Travellers in South America frequently comment upon the same phenomenon.
Prescott tells us how Cortes, on his historic march to Mexico, passed through regions that had once gleamed with volcanic fires. The whole country had been swept by the flames, and torn by the fury of these frightful eruptions.
As the traveller presses on, his road passes along vast tracts of lava, bristling in the innumerable fantastic forms into which the flery torrent has been thrown by the obstacles in its career. But as he casts his eye down some steep slope, or almost unfathomable ravine, on the margin of the road, he sees their depths glowing with the rich blooms and enamelled vegetation of the tropics.
His vision sweeps across plains of exuberant fertility, almost impervious from thickets of aromatic shrubs and wild flowers, in the midst of which tower up trees of that magnificent growth which is found only in these latitudes. It is an intoxicating panorama of brilliant colour and sweetest perfume.
‘Even the gardens of England were a desert in comparison! All around them were orange- and lemon-trees, the fruit of which, in that strange coloured light of the fireflies, flashed in their eyes like balls of burnished gold and emerald; while great white tassels, swinging from every tree in the breeze which swept the glade, tossed in their faces a fragrant snow of blossoms and glittering drops of perfumed dew.’
It is thus that, like the oyster that conceals its scar beneath a pearl.
Nature heals her wounds with loveliness. She gets over things.
Frank W Boreham
Mushrooms on the Moor
Honestly, how beautiful is that? * sob *
And while I’m not sure all things are gotten over, I think we definitely have to move through them and move on, however fragile we might ultimately feel.
The idea of moving on with loveliness in mind is actually the best thing ever, in my mind, and reminds me of Amy, which seems perfect too.
What do you think of all this, darling-faces?