(Note: there are also a few nature quotes on my religion quotes page.)

The sky
Is a suspended blue ocean.
The stars are the fish
That swim.

The planets are the white whales
I sometimes hitch a ride on,

And the sun and all light
Have forever fused themselves

Into my heart and upon
My skin.
–Hafiz, “A Suspended Blue Ocean”

old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water
–Basho, The Complete Haiku

a crescent moon
at evening must be closed
morning glory

in the middle of a field
with nothing to cling to
a skylark sings

the moon passes quickly
the treetops are still holding
the rain

hackberries falling
sound of a gray starling’s wings
on a stormy morning

how glorious
young green leaves
flash in the sun

The most effective way to save the threatened and decimated natural world is to cause people to fall in love with it again, with its beauty and its reality. –Peter Scott, to Roger Deakin

In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world—the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. –John Muir, Our National Parks

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a spectator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. As if the town had no interest in its forests but to cut them down! –Henry David Thoreau, “Life without Principle”

We need the tonic of wildness. … At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed, and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. –Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. It is cheerfully, musically earnest. I lie and relie on the earth. –Henry David Thoreau, journal, November 16, 1850

Almost the only lights visible in the night sky in southern England are those of police helicopters and passenger jets stacked for Stansted, Heathrow, and Gatwick. I doubt if the Milky Way has been visible to Londoners since the blackout during the Second World War. What kind of a place is that to live? Of what use the intellectual delights of libraries, cinemas, galleries, and concert halls if one’s whole sensory apparatus is dulled and occluded, one’s pores irretrievably blocked? Tonight, it is true, I can’t actually sit out on my terrace because it is too chilly. But when I turn off the kitchen lights and sit by the window I can see a canopy of stars despite the ever-growing puddle of lights far below spreading to blur Camaiore into Viareggio. And I need only step outside the door to hear the night breeze finding its way through the grasses and the leaves letting go autumn’s branches. For reasons I can’t explain, such things are important to see and hear; and not just once (seen that, heard that) but as a daily constant, as necessary as my pulse. –James Hamilton-Paterson, Amazing Disgrace

The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
–Pablo Neruda, “Twenty Love Poems: XIV”

In old age mountains
Are more beautiful than ever. My resolve:
That these bones be purified by rocks.

Stitched with silver-white
The twilit mountain ridge
Holds the last spring light.
–Kato Koko

Communion with nature offered me rare moments of awe and ecstasy. –Margaret Wettlin, Fifty Russian Winters

Come out of the azure. Love the day. Do not leave the sky out of your landscape. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life

Nature turns all malfaisance to good. –ditto

The whole of nature was strangely alive. There was a small puddle covered with a film of ice, dead grass; there was earth around it and a spring gushing down into a ditch. He felt these were bodily fluids, that the whole earth was like an old, sick carcass. At the beginning of time the earth had been healthy. For a while this comforted him, but then another thought struck: But it tore itself asunder with earthquakes. Lightning set fire to the land! Nature is no friend to man; it is the easiest thing in the world to freeze to death. There is no safety anywhere. –Ólafur Gunnarsson, Trolls’ Cathedral

I’m not imagining it when I say that looking up at the sky, the clouds, the moon, and the stars makes me feel calm and hopeful. It’s better medicine than either valerian or bromide; nature makes me feel humble and ready to take each blow with courage. –Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature ... Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be ... amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. –ditto

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. –Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Never does Nature say one thing and Wisdom another. –Juvenal, Satires

Everything in Nature contains all the powers of Nature. Everything is made of one hidden stuff. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal, May 25, 1843

We must go out and re-ally ourselves to Nature every day. We must take root, send out some little fiber at least, even every winter day. –Henry David Thoreau, Journal: Winter

Drive out nature with a pitchfork, and she will always come back. –Horace, Epistles 1.10.24

The volume of nature is the book of knowledge. –Oliver Goldsmith, The Citizen of the World

The goal of life is living in agreement with Nature. –Zeno the Stoic, quoted in Diogenes Laertius’s Lives of Eminent Philosophers

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. –Aristotle, On the Parts of Animals

Wilderness can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope. –Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water

As a husband embraces his wife’s body in faithful tenderness, so the bare ground and trees are embraced by the still, high, light of the morning. I feel an ache of longing to share in this embrace, to be united and absorbed. A longing like carnal desire, but directed towards earth, water, sky, and returned by the whispers of the trees, the fragrance of the soil, the caresses of the wind, the embrace of water and light. Content? No, no, no—but refreshed, rested—while waiting. –Dag Hammarskjold

Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education. –David Polis

Earth knows no desolation. She smells regeneration in the moist breath of decay. –George Meredith, The Spirit of Earth in Autumn

Sometimes I get lonesome for a storm. A fullblown storm where everything changes. –Joan Baez

I could be converted to a religion of grass. Sleep the winter away and rise headlong each spring. Sink deep roots. Conserve water. Respect and nourish your neighbors and never let trees gain the upper hand. Such are the tenets and dogmas. As for practice—grow lush in order to be devoured or caressed, stiffen in sweet elegance, invent startling seeds—those also make sense. Bow beneath the arm of fire. Connect underground. Provide. Provide. Be lovely and do no harm. –Louise Erdrich, “Big Grass,” from Heart of the Land

We should be clear about what happens when we destroy the living forms of this planet. The first consequence is that we destroy modes of divine presence. If we have a wonderful sense of the divine, it is because we live amid such awesome magnificence. –Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth

... the blood-rhythms of wilderness which remain in us (as the old seas and oceans remain in us) are declaring, in response to the increasing instability of the outside forces that are working against us, the need for reconnection to rhythms that are stable and natural. And no matter whether those rhythms are found in a city, or in a garden, or in a relationship, or in the wilderness—it is the need and desire for them that we are recognizing and searching for, and I can feel it, the notion that settling-in and stand-making is the way to achieve or rediscover these rhythms. I can sense a turning-away from the idea, once pulsing in our own blood, that drifting or running is the answer, perhaps because the rhythms we need are becoming so hard to find, out in the fragmented worlds of both nature and man. We can find these rhythms within ourselves. –Rick Bass, The Book of Yaak

Purely human life provides only a partial fulfillment of this desire for a kind of immortality. As individuals, we can feel desperately alone: we may not have children, or we may not care much for how they have turned out; we may not care to trace ourselves back through our parents; some of us may even be general misanthropes, or feel that our lives are unimportant, brief, and hurried rushes toward a final emptiness. But the earth in all its processes—the sun growing plants, flesh feeding on these plants, flesh decaying to nourish more plants, to name just one cycle—gives us some sense of a more enduring role. –Bill McKibben, The End of Nature

Nature is the great emptiness, the source out of which our culture and all its flowering comes, and in order not to lose sight of this, not to become orphans lost in the minutiae of our daily lives and, like the rich man’s son starving outside his father’s gate, to forget who we are, it is vital that wildness be preserved for its own sake, which is to say, for our sake. –Dan Gerber, “Walking in Tierra del Fuego,” from Sacred Trusts

By such a river it is impossible to believe that one will ever be tired or old. Every sense applauds it. Taste it, feel its chill on the teeth: it is purity absolute. –Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water

Whatever the reason, I’ve found solace in living by water. Solace and a sense of humor restored. … Water, contrary to even our West’s labyrinthian water laws, cannot be truly claimed. It’s too malleable. Water may reflect us, mirror our deepest selves, but it won’t bear our imprint, our scars. We can in a sense wound it through pollution and our contempt, but more often than not it will wash away those wounds over time. Water leaves no trace of us, though over eons it has left its own mark in the whorls of canyon stone, wide-wandering tributaries, glacial melt. More than volcanic fire and wind, earth is sculpted by water. Perhaps, then, it is from water we can at last learn how to shape ourselves in its image. –Brenda Peterson, Living by Water

Nature is the harmless and kind beloved of those who have been disillusioned by other beloveds. –Muhammad Hijazi, Hazar Sokhan

Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain. –Frank Lloyd Wright

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. –ditto

Just think of all the spare time that has flown
Straight into nothingness by being filled
With forks and faces, rather than repaid
Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind,
And looking out to see the moon thinned
To an air-sharpened blade.
–Philip Larkin, “Vers de Société”

I inhale the scent of lavender and santolina, stir to the touch of branches and leaves caressing the insides of my arms and elbows, finding erogenous zones no man ever discovered. I drink quarts of water as I grow thirsty, feel my hair curl in the humid air, not caring whether twigs or mud perch within. I revel in the squish of mud between my toes as I work the soil barefooted, feel my muscles loosen, my skin grow hot and flushed and languid. My garden is my empty canvas, my yoga mat, my suntan booth, my weight room, and my marathon route. It’s my soul restorer, my mud bath, my lover. In its earthy embrace, I plan my life—deciding what to pursue, what to ignore. It tests my memory, hones my fitness, enhances my endurance, strengthens my resolve. In my garden, I feel the sun on my face and lift my head to the sky in gratitude for the abundance of my life. –Margaret Russo

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is a society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more.
–Lord Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”

I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. –Henry David Thoreau

I identify with nature and all of life very deeply, so I can just lose myself to the surroundings. Every little insect, and every quiver of a leaf matters to me. –Rosalyn Tureck

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness. –John Muir, John of the Mountains

Perhaps nature is our best assurance of immortality. –Eleanor Roosevelt

Each flower is a soul opening out to nature. –Gérard de Nerval, Vers Dorés

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky.
–William Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”

The sea never changes and its works, for all the talk of men, are wrapped in mystery. –Joseph Conrad, Typhoon

Ah yes, the sea is always good. There is nothing I can look at for very long, except the sea. –Haggard, in The Last Unicorn

For all at last returns to the sea. –Rachel Carson, The Sea around Us

Learn about pines from the pine, and about bamboo from the bamboo.
     Make the universe your companion, always bearing in mind the true nature of things—mountains and rivers, trees and grasses, and humanity—and enjoy the falling blossoms and the scattering leaves.
     It is this poetic spirit that leads one to follow nature and become a friend with things of the seasons. For a person who has the spirit, everything she sees becomes a flower, and everything he imagines turns into the moon.
     Every form of insentient existence—plants, stones, or utensils—has its individual feelings similar to those of people. When we observe calmly, we discover that all things have their fulfillment. –Basho, “Learn from the Pine”

When the last leave falls,
When the last drop of water dries out,
When the ozone layer is already destroyed,
Will it be too late to understand
that money is not going to save us?
–Tove, “When the Last Leave Falls”

You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free to care.
As the peach blossom flows down the stream and is gone
into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is among no one.
–Li Po, “Question and Answer among the Mountains”

All animals, plants, and landscapes are sacred. –Larry Gates

Respect the old and cherish the young. Even insects, grass, and trees you must not hurt. –Ko Hung

Everything in the world has a hidden meaning…
Men, animals, trees, stars, they are all hieroglyphics.
When you see them you do not understand them.
You think they are really men, animals, trees, stars.
It is only years later that you understand.
–Nikos Kazantzakis

Do not overlook the truth that is right before you. Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything—even mountains, rivers, plants, and trees—should be your teacher. –Morihei Ueshiba

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter...to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life. –John Burroughs

I have come to terms with the future. From this day onward I will walk easy on the earth. Plant trees. Kill no living things. Live in harmony with all creatures. I will restore the earth where I am. Use no more of its resources than I need. And listen, listen to what it is telling me. –MJ Slim Hooey

Everything passes away—suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will still remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why? –Mikhail Bulgakov, The White Guard

A garden isn’t meant to be useful. It’s for joy. –Rumer Godden

The day, water, sun, moon, night...I do not have to purchase these things with money. –Plautus

Like a great poet, Nature knows how to produce the greatest effects with the most limited means. –Heinrich Heine

The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul. –Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life

I did however used to think, you know, in the woods walking, and as a kid playing in the woods, that there was a kind of imminence there—[the] woods…had a sense, a kind of presence, that you could feel; that there was something peculiarly, physically present, a feeling of place almost conscious...like God. It evoked that. –Robert Creely, Robert Creely and the Genius of the American Common Place

Natural objects themselves, even when they make no claim to beauty, excite the feelings, and occupy the imagination. Nature pleases, attracts, delights, merely because it is nature. We recognize in it an Infinite Power. –Karl Wilhelm Humboldt

In all things of nature there is something marvelous. –Aristotle

A person who cares about the earth will resonate with its purity. –Sally Fox

When I get a craving for Nature, I turn on the Discovery Channel and watch bear-attack survivors recount their horror and show us the results of their reconstructive surgery. –Augusten Burroughs, Magical Thinking

Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction. –Edward O. Wilson

The land is a mother that never dies. –Maori saying

Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard. –Standing Bear

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars... and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers—for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. –Osho

The poetry of the earth is never dead. –John Keats

I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees. The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets. It has given me blessed release from care and worry and the troubled thinking of our modern day. It has been a return to the primitive and the peaceful. Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and benumbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me—I am happy. –Hamlin Garland, McClure’s, February 1899

Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another. –Juvenal, Satires

You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet. –Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. –Lao Tzu

It is only in the country that we can get to know a person or a book. –Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. –Helen Keller

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself? –Henry David Thoreau

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. –William Shakespeare

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. –Albert Einstein

I’ve always regarded nature as the clothing of God. –Alan Hovhaness

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet,
Long live the weeds and the wildness yet.
–Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Inversnaid”

There is nothing in the world more peaceful than apple-leaves with an early moon. –Alice Meynell

A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. –Michael Pollan, Second Nature

I am not a lover of lawns. Rather would I see daisies in their thousands, ground ivy, hawkweed, and even the hated plantain with tall stems, and dandelions with splendid flowers and fairy down, than the too-well-tended lawn. –WH Hudson, The Book of a Naturalist

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. –John Burroughs

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. –ee cummings

In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me. –John Fowles

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity ... –Henry David Thoreau, journal, January 5, 1856

Once you have heard the lark, known the swish of feet through hill-top grass and smelt the earth made ready for the seed, you are never again going to be fully happy about the cities and towns that man carries like a crippling weight upon his back. –Gwyn Thomas

The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, and of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains. –John Muir, John of the Mountains

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. –John Muir, Our National Parks

I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan. –Zitkala-Sa

Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral. –John Burroughs

If the earth were only a few feet in diameter floating a few feet above a field somewhere, people would come from everywhere to marvel at it. People would walk around it marveling at its big pools of water, its little pools, and the water flowing between the pools. People would marvel at the bumps on it, and the holes in it, and they would marvel at the very thin layer of gas surrounding it and the water suspended in the gas. The people would marvel at all the creatures walking around the surface of the ball and at the creatures in the water. The people would declare it sacred because it was the only one, and they would protect it so that it would not be hurt. The ball would be the greatest wonder known, and people would come to pray to it, to be healed, to gain knowledge, to know beauty, and to wonder how it could be. People would love it and defend it with their lives because they would somehow know that their lives, their own roundness, could be nothing without it. If the Earth were only a few feet in diameter. –Joe Miller

After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on—have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear—what remains? Nature remains. –Walt Whitman, Specimen Days

Whenever I have found myself stuck in the ways I relate to things, I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I try to open my whole being to what it has to say. –Wynn Bullock

A man is a very small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders. –Lord Dunsany, The Laughter of the Gods

For there are some people who can live without wild things about them and the earth beneath their feet, and some who cannot. To those of us who, in a city, are always aware of the abused and abased earth below the pavement, walking on grass, watching the flight of birds, or finding the first spring dandelion are rights as old and unalienable as the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We belong to no cult. We are not Nature Lovers. We don’t love nature any more than we love breathing. Nature is simply something indispensable, like air and light and water, that we accept as necessary to living, and the nearer we can get to it the happier we are. –Louise Dickenson Rich

...where Bashô is at his greatest is where he seems most insignificant, the neck of a firefly, hailstones in the sun, the chirp of an insect, muddy melons, leeks, a dead leaf; these are full of interest, meaning, value—that is, poetry—but not as symbols of the Infinite, not as types of Eternity, but in themselves. –RH Blyth

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and places to pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul. –John Muir, The Yosemite

Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion. –Lorraine Anderson

The Amazon is still burning; we just don’t hear the smoke detectors anymore. –Larry Gelbart, on environmentalism apathy

Wilderness begins in the human mind. –(?)

Follow the wisdom provided by nature. Everything in moderation—sunlight, water, nutrients. Too much of a good thing will topple your structure. You can’t harvest what you don’t sow. So plant your desires, gently nurture them, and they will be rewarded with abundance. –Vivian Elisabeth Glyck

And nature doesn’t mean out-of-doors, you know—nature doesn’t mean horses and cows and streams and storms only—that’s only one little element. Nature means the essential significant life of the thing, whatever the thing is. That thumb of mine, what’s the nature of the thumb? Why is this nail on the thumb? It’s the why, the questioning concerned with the very life and character of whatever is, that is the study of nature. –Frank Lloyd Wright

None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild. –John Muir, Our National Parks

I used to envy the father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in “creation’s dawn.” The morning stars still sing together, and the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day. –John Muir, John of the Mountains

Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter. –John Muir, in a letter to his wife Louie, July 1888

Hiking—I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains—not hike! Do you know the origin of that word “saunter”? It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,” “To the Holy Land.” And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not “hike” through them. –John Muir, quoted in Albert Palmer’s A Parable of Sauntering

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. –John Muir

Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.–ditto

Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life. –ditto





Her beauty was so mystifying and entrancing that it pierced through his skin and into his blood and wove itself tightly around his heart. –Roxane Gay, “Requiem for a Glass Heart”

You can make the world beautiful just
by refusing to lie about it.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Few and the Forever”

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so,
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
–Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

That’s what I wanted to see. The rind of beauty that must exist in every uncared-for corner of the world. –Andrew Blackwell, Visit Sunny Chernobyl

So much of our environmental consciousness is just aesthetics, a simple idea of what counts as beautiful. But that love of beauty has a cost. It becomes a force for disengagement. –ditto

So I love the ruined places. And sure, I love the pure ones, too. But I hate the idea that there’s any difference. And I wish more people thought gross was beautiful. Because if it isn’t, then I’m not sure why we should care about a world with so much grossness in it. –ditto

Now I believe that if you don’t have calm in your heart, you can’t really produce beauty. –Mingfang Ting, quoted in Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

What is beautiful ...
Is found accidentally and not sought after.
What is beautiful is easily lost.
–Charles Simic, “Sunday Papers”

Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty. –Jon Kortajarena, in A Single Man

The world is full of ugly things that exist along side what we find beautiful, and the two are one and same. –Bill Zeller, in an online OCD message board

A beautiful thing is never perfect. –Egyptian proverb

What is heartbreaking is that there is still beauty in the world. –Debra Dean, The Madonnas of Leningrad

Beauty isn’t a special inserted sort of thing. It is just life, pure life, life nascent, running clear and strong. –HG Wells, quoted in Michael Foot’s The History of Mr. Wells

The world will be saved by beauty. –Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life

In my best possible world, ugliness would be in museums, and everything out the world, on the street, would be beautiful. –Joel-Peter Witkin

Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it. –Confucius

… beauty is beauty, whether you’re coloring inside the lines or not. –Brian Strause, Maybe a Miracle

If you stare at anything long enough, it breaks down—beauty turns ugly, ugliness becomes beautiful. I bet if you put a cancer cell under a microscope, then blew it up and put it on a wall in the Museum of Modern Art, people would look at it and say how beautiful it is. –ditto

The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
–Raymond Carver, “Happiness”

I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful—an endless prospect of magic and wonder. –Ansel Adams, commencement address, Occidental College, June 1961

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Beauty”

Beauty is ten, nine of which is dressing. –Azerbaijani proverb

Anyone who sees beauty and does not look at it will soon be poor. –Beninese proverb

For what strikes us as beauty is nothing
but all we can bear of a terror’s beginning,
and we admire it so, because it calmly disdains
to destroy us.
–Rainer Maria Rilke, “The First Elegy”

Definitions of beauty:

But I suspect, some days, that beauty helps protect the spirit of mankind, swaddle it and succor it, so that we might survive. Beauty is no end in itself, but if it makes our lives less miserable so that we might be more kind—well, then, let’s have beauty, painted on our porcelain, hanging on our walls, ringing through our stories. We are a sorry tribe of beasts. We need all the help we can get. –Gregory Maguire, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

…Beauty is an equilibrium of antagonistic impulses, a Dionysian impulse held in balance by Apollonian form. That’s the difference between prettiness and beauty; between, say, Ginger Rogers and Greta Garbo. Rogers was merely very pretty, there was no balance of opposites there, whereas Garbo’s aura alluded to a tempest of opposite impulses—fire and ice, mystery and lucidity, passion and control. –Francine du Plessix Gray

At times of crisis and risk, we need beauty and art and music more than ever… Beauty consoles and quickens; it offers a sense of plenitude and gratitude, makes us feel more protective of the world and its treasures. That’s what we urgently need in times of pain. –ditto

Knowing this to be a worthless life,
Why do I keep living on?
Because this life contains something called beauty.
–Nagai Kafu

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want to summon
the eyes and hidden mouths
of stone and light and water
to testify against you.
–Leonard Cohen, “Beneath My Hands”

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life. –Frank Lloyd Wright

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. –Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl

[The Canal] was moveless yet completely alive in this harshly puritanical winterlight; it had its own unique and difficult beauty. –Stephen King, It

It strikes me as blasphemous not to embrace life, but to embrace it in dark times, I have to find the beauty concealed in the tragic, beauty which in fact is always there, and which for me is discovered through humor. –Dean Koontz, Seize the Night

We who see the shape of the world by its shadow must look for beauty there. –from some website

It filled me with wonder, and stirred something deep and primal inside me. I feared the danger of that kind of beauty, beauty that made me so quiet and unable to move. –Linda Katherine Cutting, Memory Slips

There is a certain beauty in poverty, loss, and desolation. There is a certain strength and grandeur in suffering. Grays, storms, ruins, age, are powerful subjects for a painting. Even a dump heap can evoke admiration. –Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself

That which I have dreamed is always very far from that which I am able to hold fast and write down on paper. An artist seems to me to be a man who looks at beauty through a pair of glasses which, as he breathes, becomes clouded over and veils the beauty he sees. He takes his handkerchief. He cleans his glasses. He sees clearly again. But at the first breath the absolute beauty disappears. It is only the veil, the approximation, that we can perceive. –Giacomo Puccini




People talk about the beauty of the spring, but I can’t see it. The trees are brown and bare, slimy with rain. Some are crawling with new purple hairs. And the buds are bulging like tumorous acne, and I can tell that something wet, and soft, and cold, and misshapen is about to be born. –MT Anderson, Thirsty

The world is exploding in emerald, sage, and lusty chartreuse—neon green with so much yellow in it. It is an explosive green that, if one could watch it moment by moment throughout the day, would grow in every dimension.–Amy Seidl, Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World

Spring is the only revolutionary whose revolution has succeeded.–Marianne Van Hirtum

Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in spring.–Vladimir Nabokov, Mary

I hear the sounds of melting snow outside my window every night and with the first faint scent of spring, I remember life exists. –John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

The more nature comes to life, the brighter the sun, the greener it gets, the more depressed one feels. Spring has awakened frozen human emotions and has cruelly reminded us of our private grief. –Anna Ivanovna Likhacheva, journal, June 7, 1942

Springtime—when ecstasy seems the natural way to be and any other out of tune with the season of soul growth. Song, airy silence, a lively conversation between plants. No urgency about what gets said or not said. –Coleman Barks, in the introduction to Chapter 4 of The Essential Rumi

Again, the season of Spring has come
and a spring-source rises under everything,
a moon sliding from the shadows.
–Rumi, “Spring”

Spring makes everything look filthy. –Katherine Whitehorn

Poets and songwriters speak highly of spring as one of the great joys of life in the temperate zone, but in the real world most of spring is disappointing. We looked forward to it too long, and the spring we had in mind in February was warmer and dryer than the actual spring when it finally arrives. We’d expected it to be a whole season, like winter, instead of a handful of separate moments and single afternoons. –Barbara Holland, Endangered Pleasures

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. –Doug Larson

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day. –W. Earl Hall

Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. –Virgil A. Kraft

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. –Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

All my emotions are piling up into one heap of dry leaves, and May is like fuel poured on that heap. And it’s growing, growing, just one spark and it will erupt, flames will burst high in the sky. –Renia Spiegel, diary, 13 May 1941

It is the thirtieth of May,
the thirtieth of November,
a beginning or an end,
we are moving into the solstice
and there is so much here
I still do not understand.
–Adrienne Rich, “Toward the Solstice”

With a click and a whir of grasshopper wings, summer breaks into song. These are the days of reckless clouds and untamed sunlight, when hooky is the only game in town. Run away to nowhere special with someone who makes you feel brave and pretty. Roll down the window, and let the wind make a mess of your hair. Summer flies by in an instant. Breathe it in. –from Martha Stewart Living

Low and guttural,
the sun’s a split nectarine;
its sticky rot spreads.
–JLB, “Summer I”

Bleary cataract
summer world: how I recoil
from your blistered net.
–JLB, “Summer II”

I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer. My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music. It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips. –Violette Leduc, Mad in Pursuit

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. –Henry James, An International Episode

... summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days, and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world. –Ada Louise Huxtable, On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change

After the last heat of summer softened in the dull sun, autumn began before it came, in a light, indefinitely prolix sadness that seemed the sky’s will not to smile. –Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

There’s an energy to these autumn nights that touches something primal inside of me. Something from long ago. –Blake Crouch, Dark Matter

Autumn rain, autumn wind, they make one die of sorrow. –Qiu Jin, Qiu Jin ji

[Fall] hurries you along as you walk the roads, crunching the leaves that have fallen in mad and variegated drifts. The wind makes you ache in some place that is deeper than your bones. It may be that it touches something old in the human soul, a chord of race memory that says Migrate or die—migrate or die. –Stephen King, Salem’s Lot

Autumn evening—
There’s joy also
in loneliness.
–Buson, “Autumn Evening…”

autumn wind’s
mouth at the sliding door
a piercing voice
–Basho, The Complete Haiku

in everyone’s mouth
the tongue of autumn’s
red leaves

fragile twigs
breaking off the scarlet papers
autumn winds

the color of wind
planted artlessly
in an autumn garden

not yet dead
but sleeping at journey’s end
autumn evening

I saw old autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like silence, listening
To silence.
–Thomas Hood, “Autumn”

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. –John Keats, “To Autumn”

Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. –George Eliot, letter to Miss Lewis, Oct. 1, 1841

No Spring nor Summer Beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.
–John Donne, “Elegy IX: The Autumnal”

It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon. –Sarah Addison Allen, First Frost

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall. –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

October’s poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter. –Nova S. Bair, in Capper's Weekly

November, n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness. –Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

The most subtle charm of the woods in November is in those blue spaces which lie at so brief a distance in every avenue of meeting boughs, under every enclosing branch. This azure mist which gathers like still faint smoke has the spell of silent waters, of moonlight, of the pale rose of serene dawns. It has a light that is its own, as unique as that unnamable flame which burns in the core of the rainbow. The earth breathes it; it is the breath of the fallen leaves, the moss, the tangled fern, the undergrowth, the trees; it is the breath also of the windless grey-blue sky that leans so low. … Still, the silence and the witchery of the forest solitudes in November are of the spell of autumn. The last enchantment of midwinter is not yet come. –William Sharp, Where the Forest Murmurs

It was November—the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. –LM Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn. –Elizabeth Lawrence

The sun is a dim and flickering bulb that gets switched on at eight and off again at four. It’s too weak anymore to scatter the night’s shadows; they settle in and take root—under the trees, beneath the surface of a silent lake. The earth breathes in these cool, numbing vapors; it yaws once and then nods off as winter comes on. –Martha Stewart Living

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. –Andrew Wyeth, quoted in Richard Meryman’s The Art of Andrew Wyeth

The cold months of the northern hemisphere have been granted to us by the fortunate tilt of the earth on its axis, and they exercise a powerful influence on our collective psychology. They are part of the myth of ourselves we carry inside our heads, created as much in the shared landscape of the imagination as in the concrete reality of our surroundings.
      Like all earthly creatures we seem prewired to recognize and respond to the polar archetypes of light and dark, of heat and cold, as they are encoded in the rhythm of the days and nights and the perpetual cycle of the seasons.
      Today is exceptionally cold but the winters of my childhood seemed to be far longer and far colder than they are now. Winter in this 21st century seems scarcely to begin before it is over, snowfall is rare, and when it does occur, it is short-lived. Global warming, if that is what is reducing our annual cold season, is probably taking its toll on the human psyche just as it seems to be altering the seasonal rhythms of the planet itself.
      Something important is in the process of being taken from us, for despite the frequent foulness of the weather and the hardship of those who have to work outside, there is something of the winter that is primal, mysterious, and utterly irreplaceable, something both bleak and profoundly beautiful, something essential to this myth of ourselves, to the story of our humanity, as if we somehow need the darkness of the winter months to replenish our inner spirits as much as we need the light, energy, and warmth of the summer.
–Sting, in the liner notes to his album If On a Winter’s Night

Winter teaches us about detachment, numbness
But it’s a way to get through
From winter we learn silence and acceptance and the stillness thickens.
–Gail Barison, “The Winter Solstice of my Soul”

There is a privacy about [winter] which no other season gives you… Only in winter … can you have longer, quite stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. –Ruth Stout, How to Have a Green Thumb without an Aching Back

Go to the winter woods: listen there, look, watch, and “the dead months” will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest. –William Sharp, Where the Forest Murmurs

There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance. –ditto

In these “dead months” of December and January the forest lives its own life. It is not asleep as the poets feign. Sleep has entered into the forest, has made the deep silence its habitation: but the forest itself is awake, mysterious, omnipresent, a creature seen at last in its naked majesty. –ditto

To appreciate it [winter], you must wait for it a long time, hope and dream about it, and go through considerable enduring. –Sigurd F. Olson, The Singing Wilderness

Leaves like rusty tin
for the desolate mind that has seen the end—
the barest glimmerings.
Leaves aswirl with gulls
made wild by winter.
–George Seferis, “On a Ray of Winter Light”

I have waited for this winter as no winter
has been waited for by any man before me.
Everyone else had an appointment with joy.
I was the only one waiting for you, dark time.
–Pablo Neruda, “Appointment with Winter, part I”

Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour. –John Boswell

Winter is the time for comfort ... it is the time for home. –Dame Edith Sitwell

For all practical purposes nature is at a standstill...there is a wonderful joy in leaving behind the noisy city streets and starting out along the white road that leads across the hills. With each breath of the sharp, reviving air one seems to inhale new life. A peace as evident as the sunshine on the fields takes possession of one's inner being. The trivial cares which fretted like a swarm of mosquitoes are driven away by the first sweep of wind that comes straight from the mountains. ...The intense silence that broods over the snow-bound land is a conscious blessing. The deep blue of the sky and the purple shadows cast by the trees and plants are a feast to the eye. The crunch of the snow-rind beneath our feet and the varied hum of the telegraph wires overhead are music to our ears. –Frances Theodora Parsons

Winter dawn is the color of metal,
The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves.
–Sylvia Plath, “Waking in Winter”

We stand watching the yellow leaves go queer,
flapping in the winter rain,
falling flat and washed. ...
I tell you what you’ll never really know:
all the medical hypothesis
that explained my brain will never be as true as these
stuck leaves letting go.
–Anne Sexton, “The Double Image”

Winter north of the Arctic Circle is a chilly confluence of strange bluish light and encroaching melancholy. –Yahoo Travel, on Finland

You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.
–Louise Glück, “Snowdrops”

How winter fills my soul! –Sylvia Plath, “Three Women”

That was the black winter when I came into my own. –Anthony Hecht, “Tarantula, or The Dance of Death”

In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer. –Albert Camus, Return to Tipaza

The seasons…are authentic; there is no mistake about them, they are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in intimate harmony with one another. –Arthur Rubinstein, My Young Years

There are seasons of the heart. There are seasons in our lives, just as there are seasons to all of nature. These seasons cannot be forced any more than one can force the coming of spring by pulling at tender blades of grass to make them grow. It took me a while to understand. –(?), “When the Telephone Rang”