Rising to a full appreciation of the beauties of nature, we engage ourselves on all levels. We could systematically describe these levels, beginning with perception, moving through the intellectual discovery of harmony, and culminating with the spiritual realization of divine beauty. But full experience does not usually come at the conclusion of a systematic process. The full experience of natural beauty unifies all these aspects and more.
To give you the best chance to profit from this month-long series, I now give the first installment on an upgrade for your experience. If you want more than I provide in the tutorial (the blog-posts), online help (through the comments) is readily available. I have personally found this upgrade—the discovery of harmony—to be the most rewarding step to enhance the full process of aesthetic perception.
John Muir (1838-1914) saturated himself with natural beauty and expressed it in eloquent writing about as much as anyone ever has. He observed many types of harmony, from simple to complex, easy to difficult, and small scale to cosmic. The simplest harmony he notes is the shape of a five-petaled flower, something one might customarily perceive in a quick, summary way. A slightly more advanced harmony is found in a group of mosses with their “tones of yellow shading finely into each other.” Here the contrasts are mediated by continuous variation. He uses the term “harmony” to refer to an underlying unity, such as a shared geologic history found in a group of mountains or islands.
Muir’s evocations of harmony typically bring contrasting phenomena together, as in this description of Yosemite Valley with its granite walls and waterfalls: “rocky strength and permanence combined with beauty of plants frail and fine and evanescent; water descending in thunder, and the same water gliding through meadows and groves in gentlest beauty.” Here we see unhurried, empathetic perception expressed in poetic descriptions of two harmonious contrasts.
Please take time to look for harmonies in the physical creation, appreciate them in detail, and describe what you find.