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We mean the integrityof impression made by manifold natural objects.
The water in New Orleans’ natural aquifer is modest in amount and even less appealing than the water in the river. The city consumes the effluent of nearly half of America, and, more immediately, of the American Ruhr. None of these matters withstanding, in 1984 New Orleans took first place in the annual Drinking Water Taste Test Challenge of the American Water Works Association.
And after half a miles ride through a beautiful grove, they emerged into a little clearing, which seemed to Bessies astonished eyes like a patch of beauty dropped from heaven.
A nobler want of man is servedby nature, namely, the love of Beauty.
In city and country, riverfront owners became sensitive about the fact that the levees they were obliged to build were protecting not only their properties but also the properties behind them. Levee districts were established—administered by levee boards—to spread the cost. The more the levees confined the river, the more destructive it became when they failed. A place where water broke through was known as a crevasse—a source of terror no less effective than a bursting dam—and the big ones were memorialized, like other great disasters, in a series of proper names: the Macarty Crevasse (1816), the Sauvé Crevasse (1849). Levee inspectors were given power to call out male slaves—aged fifteen to sixty—whose owners lived within seven miles of trouble. With the approach of mid-century, the levees were averaging six feet—twice their original height—and calculations indicated that the flow line would rise. Most levee districts were not populous enough to cover the multiplying costs, so the United States Congress, in 1850, wrote the swamp and Overflow Land Act. It is possible that no friend of Peter had ever been so generous in handing over his money to Paul. The federal government deeded millions of acres of swampland to states along the river, and the states sold the acreage to pay for the levees. The Swamp Act gave eight and a half million acres of river swamps and marshes to Louisiana alone. Other states, in aggregate, got twenty million more. Since time immemorial, these river swamps had been the natural reservoirs where floodwaters were taken in and held, and gradually released as the flood went down. Where there was timber (including virgin cypress), the swampland was sold for seventy-five cents an acre, twelve and a half cents where there were no trees. The new owners were for the most part absentee. An absentee was a Yankee. The new owners drained much of the swampland, turned it into farmland, and demanded the protection of new and larger levees. At this point, Congress might have asked itself which was the act and which was the swamp.
River stages, in their wide variations, became generally higher through time, as the water was presented with fewer outlets. People began to wonder if the levees could ever be high enough and strong enough to make the river safe. Possibly a system of dams and reservoirs in the tributaries of the upper valley could hold water back and release it in the drier months, and possibly a system of spillways and floodways could be fashioned in the lower valley to distribute water when big floods arrived. Beginning in the eighteen-fifties, these notions were the subject of virulent debate among civilian and military engineers. Four major floods in ten years and thirty-two disastrous crevasses in a single spring were not enough to suggest to the Corps that levees alone might never be equal to the job. The Corps, as things stood, was not yet in charge. District by district, state by state, the levee system was still a patchwork effort. There was no high command in the fight against the water. In one of the Corps’ official histories, the situation is expressed in this rather preoccupied sentence: “By 1860, it had become increasingly obvious that a successful war over such an immense battleground could be waged only by a consolidated army under one authority.” While the Civil War came and went, the posture of the river did not change. Vicksburg fell but did not move. In the floods of 1862, 1866, and 1867, levees failed. Catastrophes notwithstanding, Bayou Plaquemine—a major distributary of the Mississippi and a natural escape for large percentages of spring high water—was closed in 1868, its junction with the Mississippi sealed by an earthen dam. Even at normal stages, the Mississippi was beginning to stand up like a large vein on the back of a hand. The river of the eighteen-seventies ran higher than it ever had before.
It is the result or expression of nature, in miniature.
What is art is another discussion altogether, one that I will address in a future essay in this series. For now, remember that the most effective answer to a question designed to stump you is the shortest, most direct and most honest answer you can possibly think of. In this situation it is a resounding Yes or a resounding No. It all depends whether you believe that your work is manipulated or not.
~John Heywood, 1565
You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness—perhaps ignorance, credulity—helps your enjoyment of these things, and of the sentiment of featherd, wooded, river, or marine Nature generally.
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Nature does not for long allow a sameness of beauty to prevail.
Our dealing with sensible objects is a constantexercise in the necessary lessons of difference, of likeness, of order,of being and seeming, of progressive arrangement; of ascent from particularto general; of combination to one end of manifold forces.
The beauty of nature shinesin his own breast.
The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in fairy books, "charm," "spell," "enchantment." They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.
The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.
~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), , 1897
I am the gentle dreamer,
Weaving in and out a warp of the moon with a woof of the mist...
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "Red Threads of My Heart: VI," , 1923
Nature's beautiful dancers — flowers, water, leaves
Dancing to the music of God's sweet breeze.
If I might bring one orchid out of my soul...
If I might bring out of its sensitized soil one tinted petal, one delicate tendril, one gossamer tracery of leaf!
What in all my striving days do I bring forth like the grace of a single wilding rose?...
Shall I ever have a single hour like the burst of God's unnumbered dawns of day?
Shall I ever bring forth in all the years of my barren being like the verdure that grows with ease on the sides of high hills?
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: XLIX," , 1921
Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.
Essay on Nature for Children and Students
"Material objects," said a French philosopher, "are necessarilykinds of scoriae of the substantial thoughts of the Creator, which mustalways preserve an exact relation to their first origin; in other words,visible nature must have a spiritual and moral side."This doctrine is abstruse, and though theimages of "garment," "scoriae," "mirror," &c., may stimulate the fancy,we must summon the aid of subtler and more vital expositors to make itplain.
Essay on Nature by Arthur Lee Jacobson
All derive it from the circumstances amid which they exist, which fact quietly suggests to us that the purest and most lasting pleasures are to be found at our very feet,— that they are not necessarily the fruit of toil and outlay, but that they flow to us out of the very nature of things, if we will but be content with what is simple and genuine....
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