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I was visiting an archaeologist, a mere acquaintance, at the Popham Colony dig in Popham, Maine, when he walked about 50 yards (almost half a football field) toward an inlet of the bay. He stood in the sunlight having emerged from the shadows to watch a cormorant drying its widespread wings while standing on a bolder in the inlet. The archaeologist stood as still as one of ancient pillars and absorbed the sight of the cormorant. The oddest thing happened because while I stood watching him watch the cormorant I all of a sudden had an impression of his experience within nature. It was as though a deeper, smoother dimension opened up and they, he and the cormorant, were part of one breathing fabric that included the surrounding flora and fauna.
This happens to me often in nature. Sometimes when I am outside, something will catch my eye. It might be a glint of light, or an insect. I suddenly lose focus on the world around me, and just concentrate on that image. I feel like I'm outside myself, or in another world. Sometimes I am transported back to this place before it was developed, such as my backyard when it was an empty field. This can happen in the most mundane places. You don't have to be in the middle of a forest. You can be in a parking lot!
Being a true lover of nature and actually living in the mountains of Western North Carolina, most of the incidents of this nature have happened to me when gazing at a spectacular mountain view. However, I thought it would be fun to mention here something more unusual: when I would notice a significant cloud formation. I'm not talkin' "cow" or "dog" or "house" here, ... I'm talkin' formations more significant to moments in my life. I can tell you precisely where I was when I saw the face of Christ, a fleur-de-lis, and Constantine's Labarum.
For the sake of time and space, I'll just explain the fleur-de-lis. The "everyday reality" was that my best friend, Karin, was dead. She died of kidney cancer when she was 35. I was searching for proof that she "made it" to heaven. Never saw a thing until one day I saw a real fleur-de-lis in the clouds from the Grove Park Inn (ironically). This flower is not only the symbol of France (Karin's favorite country) but also a symbol in the Catholic Church. What I did NOT know at the time, was the connections revealed in my previous sentence. So, when I found out that Karin had a collection of these flowers in different forms, I was floored. I considered the fleur-de-lis in the clouds to be a sign of Karin being "okay" in heaven. Transcending the reality of her death? I think so. : )
I, too, can identify a large number of such incidents. One that comes to mind at the moment is the time that I watched a total eclipse of the moon from a bridge over a freeway in Seattle. I was transported by the glory of the natural event to the point that I forgot about the sounds and smells of the traffic rushing beneath me.
I think I could select plenty of moments that I would describe as being transcendent. Certainly for me, it is either contemplating the sea or being on top of mountains when I feel "lost" in the majesty of nature, as #2 explores. Perhaps one out of many that I can select would be standing on top of the highest peak of the Tatra Mountains in Poland on a beautiful clear day and looking out over Eastern Europe. For me, such experiences serve to remind me of my own insignificance in the awesomeness of nature.
One of the fundamental points in Emerson's essay is that the individual's communion with nature is an individualized one. To that end, I am not sure that Emerson seeks to have an experience with nature that is either akin to Emerson's or something that follows exactly what he describes. The ideas of "communicating with nature" in a deep and sustainable manner that reflects an individual subjugation of identity to something larger as well as the revelation of qualities such as beauty, truth, and virtue are all to be taken as general guides and not something that follow a strict "recipe" that follows Emerson's description. Yet, I think that the general idea of whether or not one has been able to find themselves "lost" to a certain extent in nature is evident. This might be where discussion takes place.
I can say that I have had such an experience. I was traveling to India and stood at the southernmost tip of the subcontinent, a place called KanyaKumari, where there is confluence of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea. One cannot tell where one body of water starts and where another ends. There is only water and it stretches out. Standing there, at its edge, staring at only a blue horizon of water is what ended up representing an aesthetic experience of the natural setting. It was one where I was literally lost in an experience of natural piety, and one where Emerson's concept of beauty and nature were expressed in its entirety.
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