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It has been quite a year here in the States. Record
snowfalls in the East. Drought in the South. Floods
and a plague of killer tornadoes in the Mid-West.

The recent floods of the Mississippi and Missouri
rivers got me to thinking the other day about Nature
in a more general way than usual. In the ancient world,
since about the Chalcolithic, rivers have given us
the natural roads upon which to trade and from which
to pull fish, and the roads that allowed a connection
between various groups of humans who otherwise might
not have shared culture. Rivers such as the Nile flooded
and then receded, allowing the agriculture which fed
large numbers of people, thus helping to create the
first great Cultural complexes.

The relationship with Nature is and has always been
a part of our human existence, a bond. And if Nature
sometimes seems cruel, it is more often than not we
humans who are the more destructive party. But of
course there has been a little bit of wisdom employed
also. From the late 18th century on philosophers,
poets, artists and later scientists have affirmed and
reaffirmed our important place inside the natural world.
The Romantic Era and its view of Man and Nature was an
important movement, especially given that it came at
the start of the first Industrial Revolution — with all
its associated ills.

We have seen such tragedy across the past year. It
of course greatly saddens me looking upon what I call
the Killer Beauty of recent hurricanes and tornadoes
and earthquakes. But if there is any positive thing
to take with us in all of that it is perhaps a reminder
of our connections with the greater envelope of the
Earth, a reminder which might give us the opportunity
to renew our bond with it.

Even a walk around the block might give us that chance,
an opportunity to contemplate Nature. Or perhaps an
excursion into the countryside, walking with quick step
past swiftly flowing streams, through land that we clear
and tend for our crops and our livestock, listening to
the birds in the treetops, with our hands clasped behind
our backs and our eyes angled up into a sky which, to
paraphrase Dickinson, somehow never seems to fall on us
— or not entirely.

L. v. Beethoven, Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68,
II. Andante molto mosso.

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[Post photo by Richard Keeling.]