Finding Peace in Bloedel’s Nature Reserve

Do you feel invigorated by a pulsating green meadow? Exhilarated by the music of song birds? Are you calmed by the rustling of tree branches during a Spring breeze? Entranced by the sound of a bubbling creek as its clear waters stumble over colorful stones? If so, you are far from alone.

Our First Northwestern Vacation

My interest in the psychological effects of nature was enhanced by my recent trip to Seattle, WA with my husband. I meticulously researched and planned nearly every day—ensuring we got the complete Northwestern experience. On our day trip to the island of Bainbridge, we planned an excursion to the Bloedel Reserve.

Getting to Bainbridge by way of the Washington State Ferry was easy enough. However, to our surprise, we soon realized the Bloedel Reserve was located on the northern end of the island, and we—of course—were car-less.

Saved by Lyft

After exploring the small downtown area of Winslow (which has an impressive art scene), we were grateful to locate the only Lyft driver on the island. He told us we were his first ride since he moved there! He graciously drove us 30 minutes to our destination, and picked us up upon departure.

As we drew closer to the Reserve our surroundings became more secluded: greener trees and thicker forests. The Bloedel Reserve website encourages guests to arrive with at least 2 hours to spend walking through its 150 acres. I could have used double that time. What a picturesque garden!

Walking the Grounds

The moment we struck out on the mulch-laden pathway—cutting through tall, green grass, and into dense, seemingly untamed forest—I could not help but imagine myself Robert Frost. I began reciting “The Road Not Taken” aloud, in my best Frostonian impression, tearing up and smiling at this significant, yet playful moment of transcendence.

As I read through the Map provided at reception, I learned who was behind this philanthropic, eco-friendly venture: Virginia and Prentice Bloedel. Prentice was the heir to his family’s timber business, but was a “naturalist at heart.”

Virginia and Prentice Collaborate

According to a New York Times article written on the topic in 1995, Virginia was “originally more knowledgeable about horticulture, but her husband’s almost mystical reverence for the land eventually made him the driving force behind the transformation of the property.” This “reverence” spilled over into his sense of responsibility toward nature: “one feels the existence of a divine order…one realizes that we humans are trustees in this world, that our power should be exercised in this context” (New York Times).

True to form, Prentice turned his property into an oasis that encourages contemplation without distraction. This is seen most explicitly at the reflection pool—located about halfway through the Reserve and surrounded by towering evergreen trees.

His interest in the positive power of nature on the human psyche moved Prentice to fund early research on the subject. I located several research articles on this special feature of the mind and I will be sharing my findings in the upcoming blog post (stay tuned).

We loved our Spring visit and learned that each season provides its own special beauty. I look forward to visiting again, and I encourage anyone in need of a little R&R to do the same!

Sources

Chatfield-Taylor, Joan. “A Gardening Legacy in Puget Sound.” The New York Times, 2 Apr. 1995, http://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/02/travel/a-gardening-legacy-in-puget-sound.html. Accessed 22 May 2017.

Bloedel Reserve. Visit The Bloedel Reserve, 2017. http://bloedelreserve.org/visit/. Accessed 22 May 2017.

Something Worth Remembering – Day 22

Excerpt: “Ode Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” William Wordsworth

“Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind,
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be, In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering,
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind…

The innocent brightness of the new-born day
     Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality…
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”


The eloquent words penned above were composed between 1802-1804 by the famous Romantic Period poet William Wordsworth. He was born on April 7, 1770 to John and Ann Wordsworth of Cockermouth; but in contrast with this initial normalcy, in 1778, after the death of his beloved mother, Wordsworth was entrusted to the care of Hugh and Ann Tyson in Hawkshead. His closest sibling, Dorothy, was also separated from him and he would not reunite with her until 1794 after his attendance at Cambridge.

With such an unsettling past, Wordsworth’s description of his childhood as the “hour / Of splendor in the grass” is puzzling (180-181). Adding to this confusion, his preference for the youthful past is reflected in many of his other poetic works (e.g., “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798,” and “The Two-Part Prelude”).

In Beth Lau’s article “Wordsworth and Current Memory Research,” memory is explained as a most subjective asset: “…we do not remember everything we experience. Instead, we remember only what we encode of any given scene and event” (676). Moreover, Wordsworth’s own “beliefs, concerns, and expectations” (677) would have colored his view of past experiences.

In other words: Wordsworth’s third-party biographies, although factual, do not necessarily provide an accurate depiction of Wordsworth’s own perception of his childhood.

From his poems, we learn that he saw the dreamlike state of childhood as superior to adulthood, or “The years [which] bring the inevitable yoke” (127), and when “custom [lies] upon [us] with a weight” (130). He believed “Heaven lies about us in our infancy” (66) and we come “trailing clouds of glory” (64). What a contrasting view from the outsider’s perspective of his young life!

Even so, his words are deeply relatable for many readers in that he reveals his disappointment with unmet expectations. Who of us has not lost hope, at one point or another, when what we expect fails to materialize? Wordsworth’s loss of faith and hope in his later works has attracted students and scholars alike.

Yet, perhaps the more inspiring takeaway from his poetry is that in spite of confusion and disillusionment, Wordsworth continued to believe in the “human heart” with all its “tenderness” and “joys” (202-203). He tried to find the gains in the “philosophic mind” (189) which reasons and questions in adulthood.

By focusing on the gains we receive as life progresses, instead of so easily relying on the memories of loss, perhaps we can combine the “glory” of who we were in childhood, with our capable adult selves (64)—a powerful synthesis indeed! And then, just maybe, we can heal ourselves of those troubling “Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears” (206).

Word Count: 460

 

Sources

Gill, Stephen. William Wordsworth: A Life. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Lau, Beth. “Wordsworth and Current Memory Research.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 42, no. 4, 2002, pp. 675-692.

Moorman, Mary. William Wordsworth: A Biography, The Early Years 1770-1803. Oxford University Press, 1969.

Moorman, Mary. William Wordsworth: A Biography, The Later Years 1803-1850. Oxford University Press, 1965.

Wordsworth, William. “Ode Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” Romanticism: An Anthology 4th Edition, edited by Duncan Wu, Wiley Blackwell, 2012, pp. 549-554.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost – Day 21

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


This lyric poem written by Robert Frost (1874-1963) was first published in 1916 when Frost was in his early 40s. The poem is most commonly interpreted as one encouraging individualism and nonconformity. Its cheery pace, enhanced by pleasant rhyme scheme, serves to heighten the reader’s sense of empowerment and motivation! When the narrator (possibly Frost) describes the “yellow wood” (1) and expresses his regret at only being “one traveler” (3) he endears himself to his readers. For who of us has not stood at a particular crossroads in our lives wondering which road has the “better claim” (7)?

If we skim past all the doubt Frost plants in the details of his poem, we arrive at his infamous concluding lines: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference” (18-20). Without a critical, or perhaps perceptive, eye many of us have stepped away from Frost’s poem with a newfound determination to take the road “less traveled by” (19). We believe our choice will differentiate between a meaningful life, and a static, unproductive, even boring one. However, this moral, albeit valuable, does not fully account for every nuance in Frost’s introspective work of art.

To begin, the title itself suggests disappointment by highlighting “The Road Not Taken,” rather than the one taken. In stanza two the narrator vacillates between his preference for one road over another. At first both paths are “just as fair” (6), until one acquires the “better claim” (7) because it “want[s] wear” (8). Yet, complicating this feature again, the narrator concedes that really “the passing there / Had worn them…about the same” (9, 10).

Stanza four relates the narrator’s desire to “[keep] the first for another day” (12), but then recognizes this as an impossibility: “…knowing how way leads on to way, / I doubted if I should ever come back” (13-14). Does the narrator truly prefer one path over the other, or would he have rather tested both roads? Would either have made him happy? Lastly, he prefaces his closing words with “a sigh” (16) — a most ambiguous signifier. Does he sigh from relaxation, contemplation, appreciation, satisfaction, or deep regret?

I personally would like to choose the road “less traveled by” (19), and I don’t know that Frost necessarily disapproved of such a choice. What he may instead be pointing out is that such a path does not actually exist. All paths in life have been “worn” (1) about the same at this point in history; and because of the brevity of the human life span, regretting the road we didn’t initially take does not always mean we can go back and start again.

Whatever the case, Frost’s poem does alert readers to one haunting and certain truth: the road taken “[makes] all the difference” (20)—so choose wisely.

Word Count: 475

“Your Mountain is Waiting.” – Day 20

“Your mountain is waiting. So…get one your way!”

Don’t be fooled by the childlike exterior. This book packs an intellectual punch!

The genius of Dr. Seuss is his ability to camouflage life lessons within the pages of a children’s book. And what better audience to engage than young, impressionable minds filled with hope, promise, and guts?

This book encapsulates the human experience, giving readers a bird’s-eye view of what life so often becomes. Dr. Seuss highlights the ups and downs, the highs and lows. Yet, the real takeaway is to recognize our individual potential to conquer those downs and lows. Our ability to not get fooled by the ups and highs, letting all our expectations depend on those moments.

We need to believe in our own ability to succeed at living by being brave, conquering both our own fears and foreign ones thrust upon us.

So the next time you feel “mixed up,” take comfort in knowing “Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”  We can all move our proverbial mountains!

Word Count: 169

Great Sights at Great Heights – Day 19

As a lover of poetry, I am a little old-fashioned in my partiality for poetic rhyme. I know many Epic poems are written in free verse and this form certainly has its place. For my part, however, I love a thought-provoking, playful rhyme.

Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! definitely delivers rhyme in abundance. In 44 pages he never stops his consistent rhyming rhythm (and yes I counted the pages because he left out page numbers). The beauty of rhyme is that it singles out specific words into groups to further enforce the idea of the entire paragraph.

A great example of this is on page 12: “You’ll be on your way up! / You’ll be seeing great sights! / You’ll join the high fliers / who soar to high heights.” The words grouped together here are “sights,” and “heights.” By refusing to cave under the pressure of a difficult decision (as is seen on the previous “streets” page) one is able to reach great “heights” and see better “sights.” If we persevere we can embrace all the possibilities which exist beyond our fear.

The waiting scene is possibly the most poignant page—enhanced by rhyme. The grouping of words is as follows: “train to go,” “plane to go,” “rain to go,” “snow to snow,” “Yes or No,” “hair to grow,” and “fish to bite,” “fly a kite,” “Friday night,” and “Uncle Jake,” “Better Break,” and lastly “pair of pants,” “Another Chance.”

By piling rhyme upon rhyme Dr. Seuss is sharing a bit of wisdom with his young readers. Sometimes fear can get us into a rut of just waiting for something to happen for us. The reasons people choose to give up and wait their lives away are varied and multiplicitous. Dr. Seuss is urging us not to get stuck in the “waiting place.”

No! Instead, let’s spite those pesky odds and keep living life to the fullest!

Word Count: 314

A Picture is Worth at Least 100 Words – Day 18

There is much that could be said about the various illustrations Dr. Seuss creates for his imaginary world in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, but I’m going to focus on one character in particular: the little boy in the yellow jumpsuit.

This unnamed young man is first pictured on the cover trying to balance on a tower of colorful disks. He has a wary expression on his face as he uses his arms to keep himself steady. Next, we see him walking through a vast, wide-open field with no marked roads and no guide in sight.

These opening images communicate the message Dr. Seuss gives in the book itself: life is full of possibilities and requires balance.

In scenes filled with bright, cheery colors the young boy has a look of serenity and excitement. When threatening monster-like creatures first surface, he lifts his hand up against them, and points his nose in the air. With confidence he avoids any streets he doesn’t wish to go down.

When stunned by the “downs” in life, he has wide eyes and a cautious gait. In the end, however, he faces his problems courageously and quite literally moves mountains.

By choosing not to name this little boy, each reader can see his or her inner child reflected in Dr. Seuss’ illustrations. With the use of his brains, this character accomplishes great feats. Such conviction for living life is admirable and desirable. Who wouldn’t want to be as brave as the little boy in the yellow jumpsuit?

Word Count: 252

Color Me Impressed – Day 17

There are at least 4 main components which, when combined, make Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! a masterpiece: color, illustrations, rhyme, and depth of content.

One of the first things I notice when looking at the book is color—and lots of it. Dr. Seuss’ (a.k.a Theodor Seuss Geisel’s) use of vibrant colors, both inside the book and out, is an immediate attention grabber. More than this, however, the famous Doctor uses colors to mirror the mood of his written text, bringing his words to life on an almost subconscious level.

Pungent yellows, pinks, blues, greens, and purples convey the idea of freedom and happiness. Indeed, some color sequences of this sort communicate absolute elation and exhilaration!

The conflict within the narrative results in a subsequent color shift visually. Dr. Seuss specifically employs muted blues, purples, yellows, pinks, and grays, large doses of black, and startling (rather than complementary) combinations of orange and pink.

Purely based on color, Dr. Seuss has already exceeded my expectations. Without a doubt I believe his use of color is one of the key features of his books, and a main attraction for so many of the children who read them.

Word Count: 197 (I can’t put a limit on these analyses!)

Early Morning Inspiration – Day 16

Lately I’ve been trying to determine what I want to write about, both on this blog and in general. Also, I’ve wondered what genre of editing I would find most enjoyable.

I had the inkling early this morning, as my conscious mind was just waking up, that I want to write children’s books. Now, I share this cautiously because of my tendency to switch between ideas in a most capricious manner.

As I follow my cognitive path of exploration, however, I will be reading and analyzing famous children’s stories. Tomorrow I begin with Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go!.

Word Count: 100

A Little Girl Woke Up Wiser – Day 15

Once upon a time there lived a young girl who dreamt of never ending joy and happiness, surrounded by others as happy as she. She came into the world filled with hope, a sense of purpose, longing for significance, and time for deep thought. She was starry-eyed and tender-hearted.

Unlike the dream in her head, this little girl found that life was not living up to its potential—or perhaps she wasn’t—and this made her angry.

But, she woke up, then grew up, rediscovered her hope, released her anger, and decided to embrace her own life filled with promise.

Word Count: 100

In Lieu of the Melodrama – Day 14

Whenever I get sick I become fatalistic: “Oh the agony! Has anyone ever suffered as greatly as this? I’ll never make it.”

Today, in lieu of this melodramatic scene, I’m choosing escape by word picture. The picture is straight ahead, outside my window—horizontal blinds raised, sheer white curtain twisted and pulled aside.

The sun is shining from the Southeast, reflecting its majestic rays off everything it touches. A green hedge separating my yard from the neighbors’ is now laced in white beaming light. Just above the hedge a metal sculpture shaped as a woman is waving at me, inviting me out into the crisp Florida winter air.

Well perhaps I’ll join her.

Word Count: 113 (Yes, I indulged myself.)