For the Love of Natural Beauty by Lisa Lewis Smith

(Read yesterday’s post for Lisa’s introductory writing, For the Love of Lewisburg.)

For the Love of Natural Beauty

Lewisburg and Smithover are where I developed my powerful inner connection with beautiful and unique outdoor environments.  Imagine lush green, gently rolling land with karst topography and an awe-inspiring view of the Allegheny Mountains and White Sulphur gap.

This was our television, our big screen TV, our childhood backdrop.

The writer's children at Smithover

The woods and open fields, as well as the nearby Greenbrier River, were my playgrounds.  They helped mold me into a lover of the great outdoors, into someone who embraces each of the four seasons with vigor, someone who appreciates the raw beauty of sunsets and clear starry nights, all of which I carry with me today as a mother of two little people.

I had a passion for the woods.  In Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” the two paths that diverged in the woods, in my mind, have always been the two “roads” that lead from our open field into the woods and property of my Dad’s brothers, Chris and Bill.  When you stood at the divergence, one was well-traveled and the shortest distance to the cabin in the woods.  The other was “grassy and wanted wear.”  You could look down one and see “where it bent in the undergrowth.”

Both are lovely, but the one less traveled provides a lengthier and meditative stroll.

The writer's son, Greenbrier River

The open fields are peppered with giant oak, maple and elm trees.  When I was a child, the trees looked like giants waving down at me with their many branches.  Sometimes I would even pretend to shake one of their hands.  It reminds me of the endearing and imaginative children’s book, When Giants Come to Play, which portrays imaginary giant friends that play hide-and-seek, toss marbles, and drink tea with a young child.   The thing is, these trees are not imaginary.  You could actually hide in one of their pockets or pick flowers with them. My dad affixed wire, a tramway of sorts, between the Big Oak and the Old Elm.  It was like being gently tossed back and forth between two giant friends.

The Greenbrier River was our recreational oasis.  We swam and sunbathed at Cat Rock and conquered our fears jumping from Anvil Rock, which was shockingly high.  We mastered walking on slippery snail-laden river stone, porting canoes and fishing poles at places like Anthony Creek, Caldwell, and Ronceverte.  I learned early how to bait my own hook.

The river also served as a science laboratory.  We studied the physics of skipping rocks, the biology of crawdads, and the identity of mountain water lilies. We cautiously avoided water moccasins.

When the day slipped into night, something spiritual and magical took place. Sunsets transformed me.  They were my quiet obsession, and still are today.  I wanted to bottle up every moment when the sun went down and twilight appeared.  The air got lighter.  I carried the peace and tranquility of dusk into my dreams at night.  I would stare westward, surrounded by mountain air, and drink in the fiery colors of the setting sun over the open field. I continue to value and soak up this spiritual golden hour, and use it as a meditative tool or a moment to fall in love again with the astonishing beauty of life.

The writer's son, Lewisburg

Nighttime at Smithover is exceptionally spectacular as well.  Stargazing on moonless nights is also transforming.  Walking through the wet grass at night, you might think darkness is eating you whole, until you look up.  The heavens glow. Your giant friends might wave down at you again with a star dazzled backdrop….and all the stress and anxiety of life just melts away.

You feel closer to God in the country; where the air is fresh, the sunsets are miraculous and the stars…oh man…the stars on a clear cool night…they are stunning!  This is why we called it “God’s Country” growing up.

Tomorrow:  For the Love of Family

7 thoughts on “For the Love of Natural Beauty by Lisa Lewis Smith

  1. Pingback: For the Love of Natural Beauty by Lisa Lewis Smith | Esse Diem |

  2. This is lovely! I relate to Lisa’s experiences wiith nature. When I was a kid every summer my family would make trips up to Michigan to see the extended families. Both of my parents’ families lived in relatively rural areas. My dad grew up on a farm near Hickory Corners, Michigan (was there a more rural-sounding town?). My sister and I used to run all over our grandparents’ open fields. We played hide-and-go-seek, hunted for the frogs and salamanders we were mostly deprived of in Texas and, at dusk, ran through swarms of lightning bugs. I’ve seen much more grandiose natural settings since then, but it all began on my grandparents’ farm and also in the dry creek beds of Central Texas, where through her art my mom taught my sister and me how to sit still and observe the world around us.

    This quote from Lisa’s essay stood out for me in particular: “The river also served as a science laboratory. We studied the physics of skipping rocks, the biology of crawdads, and the identity of mountain water lilies. We cautiously avoided water moccasins.” That’s exactly what the natural world does for kids. Where better than in nature can a little kid experiment with the world, learn to classify and organize objects, cope with confusion, weigh choices, understand cause and effect, nurture curiosity, discover humility and develop love and awe?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Great comment! You are right on with those observations. There is so much about life to be learned outdoors, and in close connection with nature. Even the less than pretty things, and perhaps especially those things, are invaluable.

    • Thank you. Enjoyed your and Elizabeth’s comments…they remind me of Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods. He talks about “nature-deficit disorder” and the importance of reconnecting kids with their natural surroundings. The good news is that his work, and others like it, have influenced policy making and community movements across the country.

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