Central Oregon is a beautiful part of the world, and recently I had the pleasure of spending a few days there. It is high plateau country, shaped rather like a basin encircled by snow-covered mountains, heavily accented with lakes. Within moments the blue sky can fill with towering white clouds that just as suddenly blow away. Standing on the roadway, one hears the wind in the pines, yet in the middle of a pine forest there is no sound at all. In my childhood all the unforested land was a silver and grey panorama of sagebrush and sand, but with more and more water reaching the area it is today largely pasture for cattle and horses. As long as I can remember, this bit of country has held special meaning for me, as though for a time I could step into a cleaner, brighter world and walk out refreshed.
One evening while sitting alone viewing the magnificent scenery and feeling that nostalgia one does when confronted with great beauty, I grew regretful at our coming departure. There is something healing in the solitude of nature. One's whole perspective changes, and problems have a way of assuming a truer proportion. Possibly this is because for awhile the personal will lies dormant, and some other more reflective side of one's self can find expression. It occurred to me, however, that one need not seek the loneliness of mountains or the stillness of desert lands to find the repose and inner equilibrium that a communion with nature brings. Every day we look at things commonplace to us, without really seeing them; things like sunlight through an open window, the sound of birds at dusk, leaf shadows, the simple beauty of an unfolding flower. These are some of the small, bright moments in our lives, but we do not always know it. A policeman once told me that the only way he knew of stopping those attempting suicide was to show them a bouquet of flowers. "A little thing," he said, "but it reminds most of them of God and of the beauty in this old world."
To retire purposely from the world of men in order to gain peace of mind would seem negative, and futile too, since bypassing responsibilities would no doubt put that peace of mind far out of reach. The grind of daily living eventually creates a finer, broader person, yet nature helps by brushing the wind of the spirit across one's heart anytime, anywhere. All the infinitesimal lives that make up this earth hold the secrets of life as completely as do the vast stretches of night sky, so that even the chirp of a humble cricket can lend a note of reverence to the glitter of the Milky Way. Surely nature in its myriad expressions keeps alive in us the wonder and trust and unshakeable belief in a universe divinely shaped, whose spiritual destiny humanity is meant to share.
(From Sunrise magazine, February/March 2004; copyright © 2004 Theosophical University Press)