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© 2019 by Denny Balish

  • Denny Balish

Nature As Teacher

Springtime. I fall into the colors with relish after the gray of winter has passed. I urge myself to notice every flower, every blossom, every bursting tree, for their petals will be gone too soon, leaving in their wake another year of waiting for their loveliness to return.

I indulge, noticing how dandelions, rain-dripped, turn away from the fading darkness and open their yellow beauty to the sun. I ask myself: What can I learn from this dandelion wisdom? How can I turn away from my own darkness to embrace the light? And if darkness comes, how can I tenderly hold my shadowy self until the unsettling storm has moved beyond reach?


Before I am pulled back into the busyness of everyday life, with its obligations and responsibilities, just notice.

Notice how nature does not labor, how it does not ask permission to be what it is. Does either the robin or tulip care what I think as I survey them in passing?

No. How can I be more like them when embossed by the critical eyes of strangers?

The honeybee suffers no concern for what was or what will be. It busies its day gathering sustenance while serving, unbeknownst, as an ambassador of goodwill to flowers visited.

A bee resides solely in the here and now with no worry as to what tomorrow may bring.

It is a sweet existence that endures until ultimate darkness descends, taking with it the soul of this little life, returning its feather-light body to earth’s essence, providing nourishment to the flowers it had graced. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Death bequeaths life.


Nature saved me as a child, for within her I discovered an order that belied my own home.

The outside world—with its woods and trees, its creeks crawling with crayfish, its sloping hills bedecked with wildflowers, its creatures of every kind, even its thunderstorms and blizzards—was my friend.

Outside, I felt safe. Outside, I belonged.

I recall as a child lying at night on the early spring grass gazing into space, quizzical. What made up the Universe? How far did it stretch? What or who might be out there? Is there really a God? If there is, could I talk with him? Would he listen? If he did, what would I ask for?

Living so close to the city now makes it nearly impossible to see the stars. It is as if the skyscrapers have swallowed them whole.

On quiet evenings, I gaze into the night sky, penetrated by the lights of man, and yearn for that deep, deep darkness of my youth and its inky canvas jeweled with the brilliance of a hundred million stars.

I have been living without my stars for so long. I need them back for the questions they conjure. I need them back so that I can remember how equally significant and insignificant my life truly is, in the grand scheme of things.

I need them to remind me that I am life itself and that this life, my life, is no more or less important than that of the lilac bush, whose wafting sweetness descends unapologetically upon the early morning breeze surrounding me.

In this wild world of man, nature is my respite, my inspiration, my teacher.

As I take time to notice, new questions emerge:

How can I nurture my tiny dream-buds to blossom?

What dead wood do I need to shake off?

How can I show my raw beauty without fear?

In nature, I feel connected equally to the whole of life and to the fullness of my own being. I need this now more than ever. And when the day comes where my daughter buries my ashes amid the baby roots of a redbud tree, I want to look down from the cosmos and know that the sweetness that was my life, inspires those still living to take time to notice.

What could be more beautiful than that?