Simplicity and Nature

It is daunting sometimes to write about nature, because of all the extraordinary writers who have given their genius to it. Thoreau, Muir, Dillard, Emerson, Leopold… I ask myself, “What more can be said? And said as well?”

Putting pen to paper is more a mediation than an attempt at literature for me when writing about the natural world. It becomes mental prayer, which hopes to understand better that which I feel or perceive. If I can but capture it with the right words, then I can know it better.

Over the years, as I found my voice, I came to realize that perfect is about saying less, not more. The French author Antoine de Saint-Exuprey said “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.” There is a beauty and power in fewer, select words. Like nature.

Birds are a fascinating study in the perfection of the simple. What is there in this world more perfectly designed than a house sparrow? What color-scheme is more balanced than the black and yellow of a gold finch? As I watch them flutter around the feeders, there is nothing more to add to a house sparrow and nothing more to take away from a gold finch. They are living examples of the perfection of simplicity.

I try to apply these insights to my writing, and my life – the beauty and perfection of simplicity. There is an elegance about it that resonates in me. Designers and artists see elegance as a restrained beauty, a quiet modesty, not aloofness or wealth. This elegance and simplicity is also how I best understand God and the Way of Jesus.

If the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows God’s handiwork, then God must love simplicity. Studying the scriptures confirms this for me: “love God, love neighbor; act justly, love mercy, walk humbly; what you do for the least, you do for Me.” The Gospel of Jesus is itself simplicity, mercy, and peace.

It is all written there in scriptures and the birds.


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