Maybe Rousseau had it right

Almost a year ago I started a new ritual of escaping to the woods whenever I was feeling out of sorts, overloaded, or too hyper-focused on intellectual pursuits.   When I made my first venture out to a local arboretum last May and posted about it on my other blog, I made the wonderful discovery that my brain had a rest, my mind slowed down and I didn’t need to entertain its demand for input or analysis.

I used to escape to the woods as a teenager to get away from problems at home.  It was a sanctuary from my troubles.  Until last year, I had no idea it still functions as a sanctuary and restores a lot of my depleted energy.

My dear friend had a rather eloquent response:

Your comments about rest for your brain and that your “mind slowed down and [you] DIDN’T need to entertain its demand for input or analysis” brought back to my mind thoughts of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau was harangued by his contemporaries and peers. Voltaire was incensed by Rousseau’s expressions, declaring that Rousseau wanted us to go back to walking on all fours. Hume, later in Rousseau’s life, said that Rousseau had become “…plainly mad, after having long been maddish.” There are many more examples…

Dear Jean-Jacques seems to have always had trouble moving in “social circles.” He would likely have been medicated and/or institutionalized had he walked among us in our day and age. His mood swings, ‘paranoia’, affective, and social un-eases begged for some medical ‘assistance’. Yet, according to the man himself, he found solace in his communing with Nature. There were times in his life when the only peace he found was lying on his back, floating in a small boat, in the middle of a lake…listening, looking, smelling, touching, feeling the unconfused, irrefutable, immutable consistency of Nature.

Amen to Nature!  (And God Bless friends who tolerate mood swings!)

Come walk a while with me at a local nature preserve.

The beginning of our path was lined with Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).  Apparently an ‘ephemeral plant’, the bluebells have a quickly fading life cycle – about 6-8 weeks.


I have no idea how this gravity-defying, crooked tree trunk stays up, or why it’s crooked in the first place.  It reminds me of me, a little quirky and defiant.


Entering one section of the wetlands.


That’s not a field of grass, but a marsh of reeds…and with my cutie pie looking on.


Virginia bluebells up close.  They are pink when ’empty’…


…and blue when filled with nectar.


It’s very, very wet in the wetlands.


My husband said this shot almost looks like a painting.  Almost.


Thanks to the keen eye of a fellow flower aficionado, I’m pretty sure this is a Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica).

Each blossom is approximately the size of a penny.


The entire walk took about 1.5 hours, but it felt much longer…it was so peaceful…and the birds were chirping, trilling, and singing their sweet birdsongs.  We saw grackles, American goldfinches, a cardinal, a tiny little ruby-throated hummingbird, and a rose-breasted grosbeak.

It’s not just that going out in Nature is peaceful (even though it is) or that it’s pretty (even though it is), it’s an amazing prescription for modern dis-ease.

About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Philosophy, photography, Sensory Delights, Sensuality. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Maybe Rousseau had it right

  1. Phil says:

    How very nice of you to invite us all along on this pleasant walk and letting us take in the sights through the lens of your camera and your mind’s eye. The pictures are outstanding – you have a good eye for a nice photo.

    I walk or run daily along the many nature trails in my own area, usually at dawn. For me, Nature has a way of reeling me in, washing away the noise and din of a hectic life’s pace and an active mind. The funny thing is in the quiet and solitude, your senses actually become more active and alert to the smallest things; your eyes notice the tiniest details, your ears now hear the smallest, faintest sounds and rustles, your every sense becomes awakened. It’s as though you enter it a bit weary and soiled, but like a caring parent, Nature bathes you and refreshes your senses – free of charge.

    Regarding the comments your friend made about Rousseau: “He would likely have been medicated and/or institutionalized had he walked among us in our day and age. His mood swings, ‘paranoia’, affective, and social un-eases begged for some medical ‘assistance’.” How very true when viewed through the lens of today’s prism, and to a degree a little sad and troubling too. It really makes me wonder why we seem so intent (sometimes guilty of this myself) of not allowing people to be who they are, of making everyone more “mainstream.” Looking at some of those pictures reminds me there is great beauty in diversity – Nature makes no such demands that everything must be the same.

  2. Phil –

    Thank you for the kind words about my photography. I’m just an amateur, but through trial and error (lots of error), I get lucky sometimes.

    Yes, Nature has a way of taking care of the weary soul the way a nurturing parent would tend to a child. What an apt analogy – yes, I DO feel bathed in the cleansing environment of Nature.

    I tend to have one foot in each camp – mainstream and alternative. Like Paulo Coelho says,

    “Every human being should keep alive within them the sacred flame of madness, but should behave as a normal person.”

    Though, the older I get, the less interest I have in behaving as a normal person. I have more courage in pushing the envelope of what’s considered normal.

  3. ChicagoCJ says:

    You’re right, the older one gets, the less interested in ‘normality’ or ‘conventionality.’ Think Auntie Mame or the cliche of the senior citizen crossing the street against a green light. We strive to be in-tune with ‘peer pressure’ as children and then we’re saddled with ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ when we become adults. It isn’t until we begin looking down the hill of life that we decide “To hell with them all. I’ve seen enough. Know enough. and now, I don’t care enough of what others think.” and so we become ‘ourselves’!

  4. CJ –

    Thanks for the comment. And I’ll have to check out Auntie Mame. Sounds like a cool dame. Ha. I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it. I’ll have to search for that novel (or movie).

    While I tried to fit in as a child (not because of peer pressure, but just to have friends at all…but I was an odd duck even then), I had no interest in keeping up with the Joneses’. I live very humbly, in a less affluent community on purpose, so I didn’t have to keep up. The houses around here are built in the 70s, very modest on space, but the yards are large, and there is no bragging about anything. We are all just trying to get by.

    But yeah, To hell with them all.

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