“Surely it is no accident that the chlorophyll of the leaf and the hemoglobin of the blood are chemically akin. Man is more than a vegetable, but he lives under the same sun as the tree and the vine, and he responds
to the seasons, senses them in the very depth of his being, in his blood stream,
in his emotions, in the seat of his understanding when he takes time to understand.
Man’s quest for the meaning of his place in the universe has deeper roots than we usually admit. We all need, physically need, a sufficient link with our environment to be at ease in it….Perhaps
that is one reason we all look forward so eagerly to the end of Winter, because nature herself then eases the vicissitudes. I know that I need the renewal of spring as much as the trees need it. My mind requires the quickening, the replenishing, the photosynthesis in whatever form it manifests itself
in the human body.”
Hal Borland, This Hill,
The inspiration for this journal page comes from a
dear friend, now deceased, who was my sister Lillian’s neighbor in Wheeling, West Virginia. Bess Nickles was Greek-American whose parents had come from the “old country” and had realized
the American dream in the simple middle-class hard working way. The Nickles family
had owned a restaurant in Wheeling and raised two sons who both became doctors. Bess
was also a school teacher whose enthusiasm and effervescence was contagious. She
wanted to teach me something new every time I went to Wheeling for a visit. (She
once taught me how to make baklava, whirling the phyllo dough with rapid twirls and flourishes.) I treasure all the lessons she taught me. Recently, I found
myself reading again Irving Stone’s biographical novel about Vincent Van Gogh, Lust For Life. Bess had introduced me to the book and said that it had changed the whole way she saw the world, no doubt
because Irving Stone had captured the acute sensitivity with which Van Gogh lived
his life and how his deeply felt understanding of poor people was captured and portrayed in his drawings and paintings. It was this sensitivity, she said, which
touched people, heart and soul, and could be appreciated with great depth by like minded people who saw the creative beauty
in Van Gogh’s portraits of the world he saw. Such was the somber colors
in his The Potato Eaters and the glorious effervescent colors of his Sunflowers and Irises.
After this lesson in “art appreciation” I began to closely examine all art with attempts to more fully
comprehend the artists’ message.
Bess also once told me about another book that had affected her so profoundly.
She had read the book as a young woman and looked for it in bookstores ever since, but had been unable to find it. The book had been written by a freed slave sometime in the late 1800s. The title was My Great Big Beautiful World. The writer had
described her early life in Africa and her life as a plantation slave in the American south in sensitive and sweeping simple
wonders of God’s creations…. flowers, butterflies, animals, creeks, lakes, mountains, oceans. Remembering her effusive descriptions of the book, I have likewise looked for it in bookstores and via
searches on Alibris.com, but without success. I have always been entranced with
the title because, in many ways, the title itself describes so well the huge slice of the world I have been blessed to see
and savor the grandeur of this oasis in His grand creation we all call home.
"Let every kindred, ev'ry tribe, On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all...."
Edward Perronet, circa 1779
"I felt like I was almost looking at a secret …that humans weren't supposed to see this…. It's too beautiful. It was a day pass and I could view the Earth very clearly. It was right there," veteran astronaut Massimino said. "And my first reaction was to look away from it.
That it was so beautiful, people weren't supposed to see it. It was like looking into absolute paradise," (Space.com, May