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In the Eye of the Beholder

Environment, Perceptions

There is a line from an old Kingston Trio song: "The whole world is festering with unhappy souls!" Sadly, this seems to represent the present day situation, locally--Wisconsin--nationally and internationally, even more than in 1959 when this song, "The Merry Minuet", was recorded. There are many unhappy souls in our world today. This is sad, as there is much beauty around us that often is lost in the Sturm und Drang of discontent and worse. The Desiderata says it well: With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Hopefully I can lighten the atmosphere just a little.

Well, here we are well into fall again. The tree colors are a bit past peak but still vibrant and intense. This beauty of Nature is around us all the time, not just during leaf turning time a few weeks each year. But this was a good one. I think we tend to take the beauty of our world for granted, not realizing what a miracle and gift it is.

I have in a previous blog discussed color and the miraculous process involved in creating it, so will not repeat except to reiterate that there is no practical purpose to most of Nature's colors except to pleasure us. There is no evolutionary impetus that can be assigned to the variety of beauty that surrounds us. Sadly, I'm afraid most folks do not notice or appreciate it.

Some of us think we have to travel to "see the colors," missing what is literally under our noses. The photos in this post were all taken this past week within two blocks of my home, two in my yard. Yes, Door County is spectacular, but even the small scenes of beauty always around us can pleasure the soul without burning a lot of costly gas.


It's not just in fall that the wondrous gift of Nature's beauty abounds. Winter's serene blanket of silent snow in its white purity is a pleasant and calming vista. Incidentally, did you ever wonder why snow is such a brilliant white? After all, it's just frozen water. Water is colorless as is ice. How does it get so intense white? I don't want to spoil the image, but it in itself is a miracle.

Snowflakes consist of relatively large spaces with arms containing various-sized elements. When sunlight, composed of all colors, strikes a layer of snow, some penetrates the surface and is reflected by precisely sized snowflake elements. All colors are reflected but mixed in the process, bouncing around inside the pile of snowflakes. This mixing of color wavelengths creates the white color, where just simple reflectance, as by a mirror or sheen of water, would appear clear and colorless. Now tell me that's not a miracle!

Winter also displays for us that most colorful of birds, the bright red Cardinal, who seems even more intensely crimson in winter. In spring, flowers, trees and plants awake and begin to bloom. The songbirds return and the drab Goldfinch regains his brilliant yellow and black plumage. In summer, everything is lush and green, and brilliantly hued flowers are everywhere. Farmlands come to life with the promise of bounty. Then we're back to fall.

I believe that beauty in Nature is a gift from God, who is not just the Master Designer but also a consummate artist. I believe that it exists only to pleasure us, a wondrous gift. The natural world would function just as well in shades of gray; the sky would still be there in its true color, the blackness of space. Yet it is a wonderfully pleasing blue--most of the time--a fascinating process in itself. The rainbow with its palette of primary colors has its scientific explanation as the prism effect of water droplets. This explanation defies reason because of the precision of the color separation and shape of the bow. I don't buy it.

So, regardless of whether or not you subscribe to the heavenly gift idea or prefer to believe in fortuitous evolutionary happenstance, beauty in Nature is a gift that we should spend much more time enjoying, perhaps forgetting our anger and resentments at least for a time. Would that the beauty of Creation uplifts our character and inspires greater civility. Then maybe some of the world's festering will begin to heal.

It is to hope.

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