My final installment of illustrated quotes comes from the pen of American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think I may have been subconsciously testing the patience of the viewer by how I scrawled this quote into the bark of the tree. Let me help you out: “Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.”
When I read that quote the first image that came to mind was a tree. No big surprise as I am a major tree-lover. I have never hugged a tree, mind you, except in jest. However, I do confess to talking to them, thanking them, and giving them a loving touch every now and again. I am always very impressed by trees – beauty, strength, personality: they have it all! To me, they are perhaps the greatest living things on this planet (sorry, human race – you don’t even come close to cracking my Top Ten). I love the big, leafy buggers. So it is no surprise that a tree came to mind instantly.
The unique part of the image was that it was of one of those incredible trees that finds root and grows out of a rock face! This past summer, while cottage-ing in Quebec, as I was in a kayak silently gliding by the shore, I was taken aback at the impressive feat those tenacious trees had accomplished. Of course, tenacity is the word that seems to fit. But “patience”? Why did this image come to mind with Emerson’s quote, which emphasizes the patient quality of nature?
As I was drawing this illustrated quote, I was thinking on that question. Really, it makes perfect sense. The patience of nature is on display in those trees finding a place to grow and mature in the cleft of a rock. Consider these questions: How long have those rocks been there? How long did it take through erosion, the expansion and contraction of hot and cold, to create the fissures in those rocks? After that, how long did it take for those cracks to fill up with the needed soil and nutrients to make a suitable place for a tree? And then how long did it take for a seed to find root and to grow in that seemingly harsh plot of ground? How long did it take for it to become that silent sentinel on the rock?
It was all accomplished at nature’s pace, hundreds if not thousands of years in the making. That is patience.
Is it even possible for me to adopt this pace? I’m not sure. But it sounds so wonderful. The pace of life running the human race is brutal. There is no time for taking your time, or so it seems. Yet isn’t it true that the most beautiful things, the things worthy of remembering and passing on, the things that reach to the deepest places in who we are, have all been built over the long haul? Our culture is impressed by the Big Flash in the Pan, the viral sensations, the latest of this or that. But that wears thin exceedingly fast and we are quick to shuffle off one fad for another one that comes hard on its heels.
For me, the quote from Emerson, and the lesson from nature, reminds me that the most important things in my life are those things I have been given to care for, nurture, and develop over the course of time. Many of those things will outlive me, ironically enough. But what of it? Am I so important that I cannot be simply a part of something great and not the great thing itself? Of course not.
I have been given what amounts to a brief span of time but that doesn’t mean I’m in a sprint to the finish. Instead, if I live humbly, seek good things, work to focus my energies and loves on the really important aspects of life, then the number of years becomes immaterial. Then I don’t need to race, heart pounding in my chest. Then I can relax, enjoy the scenery, and feel content in the place I play in the pace that creates things that are true; things that really last.