emoment with carl
Many of us have enjoyed our nation’s beautiful national parks this summer. Did you ever wonder how they came about? Teddy Roosevelt complained that before he expanded the parks, “The American had but one thought about a tree, and that was to cut it down.” Where did our change in attitude come from? The poet William Wordsworth offered a new view of nature with lines like these:

To every natural form, rock, fruit, or flower
Even the loose stones that cover the highway,
I gave a moral life: I saw them feel,
Or linked them to some feeling: the great mass
Lay bedded in a quickening soul, and all
That I beheld respired with inward meaning.


Transcendentalists in America took Wordsworth at his word and spread a new environmental consciousness. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “nature is the symbol of the spirit…the world is emblematic.” Emerson’s friend Henry David Thoreau wrote of his two years spent living by Walden Pond: “I went to the woods because I wished to see if I could not learn what it had to teach.” John Muir, a Wisconsin famer who settled in California, a friend of Emerson and a devotee of Thoreau, campaigned to save the wilderness and helped to convert Teddy Roosevelt to the cause, proclaiming, “John the Baptist was not more eager to get all of his fellow sinners into the Jordan than I to baptize all of mine in the beauty of God’s mountains.”

In this rich tradition, Elizabethtown College biologist David Bowne and English department chair Matt Skillen guide students to explore their relationship with nature in their team-taught course, “Ecology in Short Fiction.” This summer, I hope you all have time to enjoy parks, and poetry.
Dr. David Bowne and student

Enjoy the moment,

Carl J. Strikwerda,
President


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