Essay Describing Nature

I’m not that kind of a person, who can have a lack of inspiration. When life seems dark and overshadowed, all I need to do to meet my Muse is…to go for a walk in a local park. Regardless of the season, I am always excited about admiring the Mother Nature and absorbing its beauty. There are so many aspects in this world of fauna and flora that describing its splendor by means of simple words could take hours, days, weeks, months and…even years! Nonetheless, it still won’t be enough! What do I like nature for? Its uniqueness. Green leaves, tiny snow flocks shining in the sun, rainy days when the fall begins, the first flowers of the spring – everything is beautiful and so unlike anything else you have ever seen and will ever see in this life!

Summer… Who doesn’t like it? Even those people, who can’t stand heat, will definitely agree that life is great when the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the world seems to be absolutely carefree! There’s nothing more compelling than a starry summer night, a fresh air, a fire and a guitar. The best stories have been shared under the summer night sky.

Autumn…While some people consider it the time when the rainy sky actually falls down on the ground, I find no better time to relax and get inspired. The sky is crying, the wind seems to be mad at everyone waking in the gray streets, but my heart full of inexpressible nostalgia. Wandering over the cold city, admiring the falling leaves and looking for my reflection in the puddle – no other time of the year can provide you with such a privilege to enjoy your loneliness and feel how the weather shares your passions.

Winter… The pleasant girl’s voice from the radio tried to convince me that “spring brings the rain, with winter comes pain…”, but so in vain. Winter is one of the synonyms for “magic”. At least it is so for me. Winter takes you away to the fantasy universe with the fluffy snowflakes, snow angels, shiny Christmas tree with presents and honest expectations than the New Year will bring something special. It feels like the trees are sleeping tight under a warm blanket, waiting for the spring to wake them up once again…

Spring…The first warmth of the spring sun provides you with a unique opportunity to admire the beauty of nature in its most compelling view! Beautiful plants and trees refresh the spring air with wonderful scents. Some people say that together with fantastic views and aromas that simply make you fall in love with the whole world, spring also brings hope. Hope for a new life, new discoveries and a better future. And I totally agree with such viewpoints.

To cut the long story short, I am absolutely open to state that every time of the year provides us all with a bunch of desired inspiration for life. Nature’s beauty, just as it is, makes us feel the harmony of the world and lets us dream on.

About Steven Arndt

Steven Arndt is a passionate writer, educator and a former History teacher. He tends to reconsider the role of modern education in our society and watches with awe the freedom the youth now has.

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“I declare this world is so beautiful that I can hardly believe it exists.”  The beauty of nature can have a profound effect upon our senses, those gateways from the outer world to the inner, whether it results in disbelief in its very existence as Emerson notes, or feelings such as awe, wonder, or amazement.  But what is it about nature and the entities that make it up that cause us, oftentimes unwillingly, to feel or declare that they are beautiful?

One answer that Emerson offers is that “the simple perception of natural forms is a delight.”  When we think of beauty in nature, we might most immediately think of things that dazzle the senses – the prominence of a mountain, the expanse of the sea, the unfolding of the life of a flower.  Often it is merely the perception of these things itself which gives us pleasure, and this emotional or affective response on our part seems to be crucial to our experience of beauty.  So in a way there is a correlate here to the intrinsic value of nature; Emerson says:

the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves

Most often, it seems to me, we find these things to be beautiful not because of something else they might bring us – a piece of furniture, say, or a ‘delicacy’ to be consumed – but because of the way that the forms of these things immediately strike us upon observation. In fact, one might even think that this experience of beauty is one of the bases for valuing nature – nature is valuable because it is beautiful.

Emerson seems to think that beauty in the natural world is not limited to certain parts of nature to the exclusion of others. He writes that every landscape lies under “the necessity of being beautiful”, and that “beauty breaks in everywhere.”  As we slowly creep out of a long winter in the Northeast, I think Emerson would find the lamentations about what we have ‘endured’ to be misguided:

The inhabitants of the cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only half the year….To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.

The close observer of nature sees a river in constant flux, even when the river’s water is frozen and everything appears to be static and unchanging for a time. Nature can reveal its beauty in all places and at all times to the eye that knows how to look for it. We can hear Emerson wrangle with himself on this very point in the words of this journal entry:

At night I went out into the dark and saw a glimmering star and heard a frog, and Nature seemed to say, Well do not these suffice?  Here is a new scene, a new experience.  Ponder it, Emerson, and not like the foolish world, hanker after thunders and multitudes and vast landscapes, the sea or Niagara.

MS Am 1280.235 (706.3E) Houghton Library

So if we’re sympathetic to the idea that nature, or aspects of it, are beautiful, we might ask ourselves why we experience nature in this way.  Emerson says that nature is beautiful because it is alive, moving, reproductive.  In nature we observe growth and development in living things, contrasted with the static or deteriorating state of the vast majority of that which is man-made.  More generally, he writes:  “We ascribe beauty to that which…has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end; which stands related to all things”.  He cites natural structures as lacking superfluities, an observation that in general has been confirmed by the advancement of biology.  Furthermore, he says that whether talking about a human artifact or a natural organism, any increase of ability to achieve its end or goal is an increase in beauty.  So in Emerson we might find the resources for seeing evolution and the drive to survive as a beautiful rather than an ugly process, governed by laws that tend to increase reproductive fitness and that we can understand through observation and inquiry.  And lastly, Emerson points to the relation between what we take to be an individual and the rest of nature as a quality of the beautiful.  This consists in the “power to suggest relation to the whole world, and so lift the object out of a pitiful individuality.”  In nature one doesn’t come across individuals that are robustly independent from their environment; rather things are intimately interconnected with their surroundings in ways that we don’t fully understand.

Nothing is quite beautiful alone:  nothing but is beautiful in the whole.

All of these qualities of beauty seem to go beyond the mere impression of sensible forms that we started with, and what they require is what also served as the basis of truth and goodness in nature.

MS Am 1280.235 (708) Houghton LibraryIn addition to the immediate experience of beauty based in perception, Emerson suggests that the beauty of the world may also be viewed as an object of the intellect.  He writes that “the question of Beauty takes us out of surfaces, to thinking of the foundations of things.”  In other words, we can also experience the world as beautiful because of its rational structure and our ability to grasp that structure through thought.  Think for instance of the geometric structure of a crystal, or snowflake, or nautilus shell.  Or consider the complexity of the fact that the reintroduction of the wolf in Yellowstone National Park changed the course of the rivers due to a chain reaction of cause and effect through the food web, a process called a trophic cascade.  This reinforces Emerson’s emphasis on the interconnection between all members of the natural world; as observers of nature we are confronted with one giant, complex process that isn’t of our own making, but that we can also understand, and get a mental grasp on, even if only partially, and be awe-struck in that process of understanding.

There is thus an emotional or affective component in the beauty of the intellect just as there is in the immediate beauty of perception.  If we destroy the natural world, we take away the things that we can marvel at and experience awe towards in these two ways.  And this experience of the beautiful through the intellect may reinforce our attributing value to nature here as well, but a deeper kind of value, the intrinsic value I talked about in the last essay.  Here it is not only that nature is valuable because it is beautiful, but nature is beautiful because it possesses intrinsic value, grounded in its intelligible structure.  Thus we see a close parallel between goodness and beauty in nature.  We can find an objective basis for goodness and beauty in nature, namely its intelligible structure, but also see that nature is valuable and beautiful for us, with the particular apparatus that nature has given us for navigating our way through the world.

So that which is the basis of truth in nature and provides it with intrinsic value is also that which makes it beautiful.  Emerson himself ties these three aspects of nature into one package himself:

He should know that the landscape has beauty for his eye, because it expresses a thought which is to him good:  and this, because of the same power which sees through his eyes, is seen in that spectacle

This is the unified philosophy of nature that I set out to explicate in the first essay – nature is the source of truth, goodness, and beauty, because of its intelligible structure, and because of its production of organisms that can recognize that structure, us.  And this view of nature includes an inherent call to protect that which is true, good, and beautiful.  These are the things that we as human beings are searching for, are striving after, and yet they’re right in front of us if only we would listen with our ear to the earth.

Although I’ve been advocating an approach to nature based on its intelligibility, we are far from tying down the giant that is nature with our minds. Emerson writes that “the perception of the inexhaustibleness of nature is an immortal youth.”  Although we shall continue to try to uncover nature’s secrets, let us also continue to take pleasure in our immediate encounter with her. Let us continue to be awe-struck, like the child on the seashore, or clambering up a tree. Let us hold onto that experience, and fight for the environment that makes it possible, both for the child in each of us, and for those that come after us.


Michael welcomes correspondence, and can be reached at mpopejoy@fas.harvard.edu. His series "Emerson and the Environment" is part of a larger project which was awarded a Student Sustainability Grant. Quotations taken from Emerson’s journals, his book Nature, and his essays ‘Nature’, ‘Art’, ‘Beauty’,  and  ‘Spiritual Laws.' He is happy to provide more specific source information for the quotations.

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