The Perfect Whole

“Beauty through my senses stole / I yielded myself to the perfect whole.”

Does anyone else find themselves increasingly disinterested in buying or picking flowers, only to watch them lose their luster, cloistered from the sun and the rain? During the angst of 2020, I read a poem by my man Ralph Waldo Emerson that spoke to this preference to immerse myself in Nature, rather than to package her up and take her home. In “Each and All”, he speaks of capturing the bird from the forest, and removing the shell from the shore, only to realize that — without the context of their natural surroundings — they suddenly please him less.

Around this time, I spotted an enormous, beautiful maple leaf on the grounds of the Virginian countryside resort where Chuck and I spent our 10-year wedding anniversary. It was glistening from a recent rain shower. I picked it up and brought it to our room, then went about my day. Hours later, it had dried and sat looking lonely and crispy on the bedside table. Removed from the lush, dewy grass, the cool, misty air, it had suddenly lost its magic. I thought of Emerson’s poem, then.

I haven’t picked a flower or brought a seashell home since! These days, I prefer to meet them where they are – in the wild 🙂 

Nothing is fair or good alone.
I thought the sparrow’s note from heaven,
Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
I brought him home, in his nest, at even;
He sings the song, but it pleases not now,
For I did not bring home the river and sky; —
He sang to my ear, — they sang to my eye.
The delicate shells lay on the shore;

The bubbles of the latest wave
Fresh pearls to their enamel gave;
And the bellowing of the savage sea
Greeted their safe escape to me.
I wiped away the weeds and foam,
I fetched my sea-born treasures home;
But the poor, unsightly, noisome things
Had left their beauty on the shore,
With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar.

Beauty through my senses stole;
I yielded myself to the perfect whole.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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