The Transformative Powers of Nature




I have read a few fiction books lately:

1. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
2. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
3. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Surprisingly, it's "Heidi" that I want to mention... this book is a treasure, although somewhat hidden by a style so saccharin-sweet that it might be hard to notice. This book is about the powerful forces of nature to give us everything we need to be happy. There are a lot of new self-help books that are being written about this subject, but Johanna Spyri had the jump on the market when she wrote this book in 1880. The author obviously has felt the benefits of a deep connection to nature and describes it beautifully when speaking of Switzerland's Alps:

"Every few steps Heidi had to stand still and look around, for the high mountains were behind her as she climbed. Now a red glow fell over the grass at her feet: she turned round: there -- she had forgotten the splendor, and never had seen it in her dreams like this -- the rocky peaks on Falknis flamed up to the sky, the broad snow field was all aglow, and rosy clouds were drifting high above. The Grass all round on the Alm was golden: from all the heights it glimmered and gleamed down, and below, the far-reaching valley swam in a golden vapor."

Don't you feel more relaxed?

The author Johanna Spyri describes the way the clean wind of the Alps, combing through the pine trees (sounds like Oregon!) combined with simple, natural food and sleep in a wholesome bed (complete with wooden cutout window and moon, not to mention fresh straw!) makes the human body and spirit complete.

Now on the other hand, "The Lord of the Flies" is also about the transformative power of nature, although it's really about the failure of human culture, but my guess is things went wrong because it was all boys. Put a girl in the Alps, and you can't lose! Boys on a tropical island, everything goes to hell.

Comments

pamela said…
Great blog overall, but those last two sentences are--well, I just love them. May I quote you? I'm having a book discussion with a fifteen-year-old forced to read _The Lord of the Flies_ as part of her summer reading list (she thinks she might like it if she didn't *have* to read it. I felt the same way about Milton, a couple of years ago).

Plus: you are so right about Heidi! I feel the same way about the nature writing in the Rings trilogy, and also the description of the thunderstorm on the island where Huck and Jim first meet again in _Huckleberry Finn_.
Diane said…
Pamela, yes you may quote me! I just finished reading the Tolkien trilogy and loved the nature worship. I felt like I might have some hobbit in me judging by how much I love my own little Oregon shire, and my cozy house. (I do not have hairy feet, however!)
A more contemporary writer that describes nature in a profoundly respectful way is Annie Dillard, in "The Living" one of my all-time favorite books.

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