Some time ago I went to Chiang Mai, a natural haven in the mountainous parts of northern Thailand. I was there on a 10-day retreat in an exquisite, picturesque accommodation located on a hilltop. With a serene river flowing adjacent to my room and lush green trees covering the entire campus, the place could not have been more beautiful.
For me, the closer I am to greeneries and quaint mountains, the more connected I feel to poetry. One of the best things about my getaway to Chiang Mai was that there were so many amazing spots where I could sit, relax, and enjoy poetry. Sometimes I would sit on the coffee table next to the window in my room, sometimes on the banks of the river, and sometimes under the shade of verdant trees. It was perfect.
The view, the poetry, and the solace were surreal, which inspired me to share excerpts from some of my favourite poems that celebrate nature:
“A BIRD CAME DOWN THE WALK” BY EMILY DICKINSON
A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,
And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –
He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. –
Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home –
Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.
Emily Dickinson’s poems are my favourite because they are striking illustrations of her everyday observations. The fact that she wrote a poem about a bird, describing its emotions, actions, and reactions make me wonder about Dickinson’s relationship with nature. She reminds us that one can experience the raw beauty of nature in the smallest moments. As I read this poem sitting near the river bank, I was reminded that I can do the same.
“THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS” BY RUDYARD KIPLING
They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
What I love most about this piece is the element of mystery that Kipling adds to the world of nature. The idea of a non-existent path behind which lies a world of woods and wildlife fascinates me. I remember I was reading this piece in my room by the window and wondering what if there were a secret mystic land where nature flourished unhindered and mankind had no control over it. How beautiful would that world be? The line “only the keeper sees” teases my imagination and takes me to this secret world where I am the keeper of an unending natural haven.
“A MINOR BIRD” – POEM BY ROBERT FROST
I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;
Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.
The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.
And of course, there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.
I personally feel that each of us can find a part of ourselves in the narrator of “A Minor Bird.” We are all so busy in our digital lives that we hardly make any time to behold the world around us. They say that to a depressed mind even the melodious song of a nightingale can be irritating. The lines “And of course. . . silence any song” resonate with me on so many levels. After reading this piece by the genius Frost, I went down for a walk in the woods just to listen to birds singing.
“REMEMBER” BY JOY HARJO
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away tonight.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Joy Harjo reminds us of our literal and figurative roots in this poem. She reminds us that we originate from the earth, we are earth. She also asks us to remember the people who made our being possible. This poem is my all-time favourite, and reading it while basking in nature brought me closer to its essence.
I think this post is just a reminder for all of us that nature is right here, right now. We don’t have to be on an exotic holiday to indulge and explore nature’s divine beauty. No matter where we are and what our day looks like, if we take some time out from our busy routine and appreciate the beauty of nature, that will help us manifest our creative selves. And, when we forget, poetry can always take us back to celebrating nature and life.