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A natural divinity By: Swara Tewari and Herman Saini

English teacher Hannah Gould stands in the middle of her backyard, her face tilted upward to the golden warmth of the sun. She observes the light filtering through the rich, green mulberry leaves, then dappling on the ground. The sharp aroma of the rosemary wafts toward her. Gould watches a hummingbird flit through the leaves, its wings beating a thousand times per second, just a blur of motion. Standing here, absorbing nature’s vibrance and beauty, she feels at peace.

“[I think that] just being still [in nature] and seeing what is shown to you is really important,” Gould said. “Nature doesn’t show you anything that’s HD or edited, you have to be really patient and at first, it’s super boring. There's nothing to look at. [But] the longer you're still and quiet, you're like, ‘There's so many animals and bugs and plants to see.’”

For Gould, nature has always served as an escape from the artificial, concrete world to one that is more authentic. Gould frequently goes on rigorous bike rides and hikes on trails, surrounded by wilderness.

Junior Natasha Lee explains that nature is a source of comfort for her as in her constantly-changing and shifting life, nature is a timeless constant.

“I love how peaceful [nature] is,” Lee said. “I don’t usually get time [in my busy day] to think about myself or self-reflect. But in nature, there’s nothing to distract you, it’s just you. Being outside with everything that has been there since before the world began is incredible.”

While nature allows Gould to self-reflect, it is also a creative outlet for Gould. She finds beauty in the smallest, most minute details of nature, such as the pattern on a leaf or the precise anatomy of insects. She uses this affinity for details to create impressionistic artwork.

“I'm really in love with insects, [so] I do art projects where I try to copy nature in my very pathetic human capacity,” Gould said. “I make these bug wings out of wire and fabric and I try to mimic the vein structures. Nature is a lot of inspiration for that type of crafting art that I do.”

Gould enjoys making insect wing artwork by twisting wire and fabric. Photo courtesy of Hannah Gould.

Gould’s bond with nature is always strengthening. The more connected she becomes to nature, the more she is able to notice how nature is a reflection of humanity. Gould explains that in a sense, nature is her “religion.”

“My understanding of God is that [God is] the sun because the sun gives us life, and it also can take life away from us,” Gould said. “It’s this all-powerful source of power and energy that nourishes everybody.”

Mythology teacher Meghan Choate agrees with Gould on how nature plays a role in religious faith. She explains that in many ancient cultures, nature was used to explain the world and seen as a testament to a higher power.

“We look at a bunch of different creation myths from different cultures and in a lot of those, nature is this kind of benevolent force,” Choate said. “For example, in Judeo-Christian myths, we look at Noah's Ark and the flood and we see nature at work in that text as a way for creation to be reborn. It’s this tool to explain the unknown.”

Lee also finds ancient myths about nature to be very interesting, as they allow her to briefly escape the scientific frame of thinking she typically uses. However, she ultimately doesn’t believe the irrational myths.

“I’m a big fan of the Native American myths,” Lee said. “Like the one that says that someone threw a blanket over the sky, then poked holes through it, which is why there stars. Obviously, I don’t believe in it because science is more logical but I think it’s cool to fantasize about it.”

While Choate and lee connect with nature through myths and stories, Gould’s appreciation and close connection with nature stems from her childhood, as she attended a Waldorf school, which emphasizes hands-on activities and creativity. However, during her college years, she remembers how she briefly lost her connection with nature and had to consciously re-develop it.

“As a young student, I kind of backed away from [nature] a little bit,” Gould said. “When I was in college, I studied in New York City. It was very urban and I was very disconnected from nature. But while I was in New York, I realized that there was something really lacking in my life and that's when I started getting interested in working on farms and being out in more rural areas. Since then, I've made it a priority [to spend time in nature].”

Gould has a deep love for interesting plants and botany. Phtoo courtesy of Gould.

Choate agrees with Gould that spending time in nature fosters a deeper connection with the world — but she also believes that connecting with nature has helped her develop a sense of self-awareness.

“[In nature], you have those moments when you’re alone, without any buildings or people around,” Choate said. “Nature can bring this ‘aha moment’ that buildings and infrastructure can’t. [It can be] so humbling to be in nature and feel so small, but also like there's a purpose to you.”

As the world is urbanizing, Gould believes society is losing their connection with nature. She thinks that people find it easier to retreat to the controlled comfort of their homes, rather than expose themselves to nature, which is unpredictable and wild.

“[People] like sterility and hard angles and controlled clean environments and perfect temperatures,” Gould said. “I can understand why that cleanliness and comfort is appealing and how when you're tired or stressed, you [want] to retreat to that. [After a long day], I don't want to go out for a hike. But I believe that relying on [comfort] closes off a very important part of our spiritual selves and does limit your energy. It’s about making yourself do the thing that feels a little bit cold and a little bit uncomfortable and makes you sweat, makes you dirty. [Being out in nature] has these positive returns that make you feel more at peace in the world.”

Header image and infographic by Herman Saini.

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