BEA'S SUGAR MAPLES

The other day Bea in Ontario wrote me about how powerfully she was being affected by her local landscape's autumn beauty. She was especially touched by a woods of yellow Sugar Maples glowing intensely beneath a deep-blue sky.

Who knows why the gorgeousness of this particular autumn in Ontario affected Bea more profoundly than in other years? Why knows why this year she's discovering delights and pleasures in Nature's corners and niches that until now she's overlooked, passed by, or simply ignored?

I've experienced such intense periods of sensitization to Nature myself. It's a feeling very like what religious people must experience when they're "reborn," or mystics feel at various yogic stages on the path to nirvana. There's enormous relief in finding that there's something beyond everyday human experience that's beautiful through and through, something offering teachings that can guide one through a lifetime, something always there that FEELS solid and GOOD.

Of course I would say that the fundamental difference between religions, yoga and Nature is that religions and yoga are human inventions arisen from and adapted to human psychology, and are thus blind to or at least insensitive to realties beyond immediate human interest.This limitation lies at the root of our environmental disaster. Nature, in profound contrast to relgions and yoga, is the Universe itself, the whole body of work of the Creator. Religions and yoga are modest subsets of the realities of Nature.

A point to be made is that the almost-ecstatic state Bea describes never returns with the same intensity as when experienced the first time. The sad thing is that most people who find the delicious feeling Bea describes drifting away -- when their enthusiasm for life begins fading once again, when they start forgetting the insights their sharp feelings once gave them -- simply accept the losses as natural, as part of getting old.

It doesn't have to be that way. The awakening Bea is experiencing constitutes just one door one can pass through. It's the first "rebirth" that should open the door to a subsequent "rebirth," and then after that there should be yet another. Each "rebirth" is even more beautiful, meaningful and transformative than the previous one.

The first "rebirth" derives from what we can experience with our physical senses: Bright colors, engaging textures, moving melodies, odors of life itself -- Bea's golden Sugar Maples, birdsong, the odor of rich soil on a perfect autumn day.

The second "rebirth" arises from intellectual inquiry. One learns about the evolution, taxonomy and ecology of maples, one learns about the dynamics of bird populations, one learns about the complexity of soil, of galaxies beyond our own, of subatomic particles... Seeing that Nature is so complex, yet all Her interrelated, interdependent parts harmonize and function perfectly together, one is filled with awe.

The third "rebirth" is a spiritual one (not religious). The implications of Nature's beauty and perfection lead to the inescapable insight that something is going on in the Universe far beyond the influence and understanding of humanity.

And, whatever that "something" is, it's so dazzling, profound and eternal that it would seem to make sense that the goal of any intelligent, sentient being should be this: To harmonize one's behavior with Nature's teachings, or paradigms (love of diversity, recycling of resources, cooperation among mutually dependent parts, etc.).

Being touched by a grove of Sugar Maples on a sunny autumn day should be just the beginning.