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The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

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What lessons did Helen Keller learn from nature?

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Many of Helen Keller's early lessons from her teacher, Anne Sullivan, took place out of doors because Helen enjoyed the outdoors immensely and because she relied on the sense of touch to learn new things. As Helen Keller writes:

"All my early lessons have in them the breath of the woods–the fine, resinous odour of pine needles, blended with the perfume of wild grapes. Seated in the gracious shade of a wild tulip tree, I learned to think that everything has a lesson and a suggestion. 'The loveliness of things taught me all their use.'"

From being out of doors, Helen Keller began to learn the ways of nature, such as the way grass grows and how birds find shelter in their nests. She also began to understand abstractions from her experiences in nature. For example, when the sun emerged from behind a cloud to shine warmly, Helen Keller began to understand what the word "love" meant--a concept she had been struggling to comprehend. Later, Helen Keller built mounds of earth to understand geography. She studied botany and zoology by experiencing at the growth of a plant. She loved nature, and this love helped motivate her to learn.

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Miss Sullivan taught Helen about nature. Helen learned how the sun and rain helped trees grow. She also learned how animals found food and shelter. Helen described her early lessons with her teacher in her autobiography, writing,

Long before I learned to do a sum in arithmetic or describe the shape of the earth, Miss Sullivan had taught me to find beauty in the fragrant woods, in every blade of grass, and in the curves and dimples of my baby sister's hand (The Story of My Life, Chapter V).

Helen had always enjoyed being out in nature. Before Miss Sullivan arrived, Helen found peace in the garden near her house. She learned to appreciate the flowers, trees, vines, and shrubs using her senses of touch and smell.

One day, Helen had an experience that taught her how nature was not always a thing of joy. She experienced a fierce side of nature. Helen sat alone in the shade of a tree, perched on a branch. Helen felt the air suddenly turn cool, and "a shiver ran through the tree" (Chapter V). Helen clung to the tree as the branches and leaves blew in the wind. She realized that nature's fury was to be feared.

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