Monday, September 28, 2009

Natura Naturans

I first heard the phrase “Natura Naturans” from my nephew who plans to have the words tattooed on his back. It’s a Latin term for “nature naturing,” or more loosely “nature doing what nature does,” and it was top of mind today when I took a two-hour hike on the Lower Hermosa Creek trail near my home. In Durango, we’re experiencing an Indian summer with temperatures near 80 today so it would have been a crime to stay indoors.

Never before have the oaks been so vibrant in their fall color. My vocabulary was stunted for most of the walk and I rarely managed more than “Wow,” “Look!” and “Oh, those!”

Once again, a writer at a loss for words. The irony is that nothing inspires me as much as being in the woods. The colors, the scents, the sounds, the textures all call out for someone to catalog them but being so incredibly awe-inspiring, they defy description. They require participation.

I ran across an out of print book called Nature Writing: The Tradition in English. Writers like Muir, Dillard and Thoreau join many others in writing essays on their natural world.
I like to imagine them soaking in every detail of their experiences, passing those details through the filter of a writer’s mind, capturing at least the essence of natura naturans for others to experience from the page.

Today, I breathed in the mix of sun and dust and pine needles on the trail. I heard the lowing of the cattle herd still roaming the hills and the frantic scurrying and chattering of chipmunks and squirrels beneath fallen leaves and brush. I scratched the bark of an elder pine tree to smell the faintest hints of vanilla and burnt caramel. I allowed the wind and the sun to kiss my face, to embrace me, to wash away the worries of the metal and concrete world.

Has nature been an important part of your writing or creative life? In what way?

1 comment:

  1. Mandy, I recently read Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" for the first time -- previously, I had loved "Teaching a Stone to Talk." Her ability to make the natural world come alive with words astounds me. The other writer who should be on that list is Mary Oliver -- her essays are stunning. My favorite collection is "Blue Pastures," particularly the essay about owls. It's good to be reminded to look out the window instead of staring at the walls in my writer's studio all day...