Friday, October 29, 2010
…of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves…
David B. Hart
Autumn is the most beautiful and most mysterious of the seasons, at least to me, just as twilight is the most beautiful and mysterious part of the day. There is something so hypnotically uncanny about these liminal times—between summer and winter, between day and night—partly because of the obliging softness of the light, which lends such depth and subtlety to the world’s colors, and partly because of the strange feeling of suspense that pervades them.
Everything seems to hover tremulously in a state of pure transformation, slowly passing from one fixed condition to another—from seething torpor to icy dormancy, from light to darkness. There is a haunting sense that everything has been briefly displaced from any proper order, that almost anything might happen, that strange, lovely, and mighty forms are moving just behind the surface of reality. These are the times when one is most immediately aware of the numinous within nature.
This, at any rate, was what I said to my son—in very different terms—as we stood there looking down over the lake, and he agreed with me heartily. Then he observed that a forest is always a mysterious place, no matter what the season, and I had to concede the point, with a discreet thrill of paternal pride. But then he remarked that this must be why people used to believe there were spirits of the trees and streams, before science discovered that there are no such beings.
I was stunned; his words pierced me to the core. Where on earth, I wondered, had he acquired this dreadful superstition? Who had corrupted his eleven-year-old mind with the abominable nonsense that science had somehow “discovered” the nonexistence of nature spirits, or that modern empirical method could ever possibly be competent to do such a thing? Suppressing my alarm as best I could, I quickly interrogated him, and within a few moments had learned the title of the offending school text...Full essay image by fesoj