The Valorization of Nature in Norris’s The Beautiful Places

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           This article seeks to investigate the celebration of nature in Kathleen Norris’s essay “The Beautiful Places.” According to An Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, “The physical world and everything in it such as plants, Animals Mountains, oceans, stars that are not made by the people is called nature. So, the power of nature is all around us and can be found almost anywhere.

Nature is so pervaded in human life, that there is something of humanity in all and in very particular. We believe that humanity and nature were created by God and we can learn more about the spirit of God by studying nature. We also see that nature has the power to influence our emotions and actions. When we are in pain or grief we can forget that situation after seeing the beautiful nature. We see evidence of this through various landscapes such as the desert, the beach, the mountains, and the jungle. I can find the differences between all of the landscapes of nature to be a testament to Gods power.

Animals in South Dakota, beautiful places
animals, Source: Youtube

So, nature is reverence, piety, deity and neutral or stable in itself as well as hostile. We as living beings are natural and therefore the power of nature is also the power of us. The power is to change, the power to redefine ourselves and conceive nature and humans as one. The power of nature has in a sense always been present insofar as humans have always been part of nature and been able to recognize.

G.M. Hopkins in his poem “Pied Beauty” says “there is always a beauty to be found in nature and nature’s beauty can be uplifting for the human spirit both on a visual and spiritual level” (79). This poem discloses the relationship between nature and human beings: how nature can affect one’s emotion and behavior with its motion and sound. According to Wordsworth, ‘the child is the father of man’ in My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold. It means the adult learns from the experience of childhood.  So, nature is the source of spontaneous felling (86).  It creates attractive, pleasant as well as complex things for human beings automatically, where people can enjoy these things freely without any difficulty. But they cannot take pleasure freely and start thinking that how so much beautiful things are created by nature. They find things in nature too complex and influential in their lives. The same case is here in the essay.

The author personifies the images of Dakota in such a way that a melancholy tone is created. Nature provides the ultimate good influence on the human mind. All manifestation of the geographical and cultural identity within the Dakotas-elicit noble, elevated thought and passionate emotion in the people who observe this manifestation. Wordsworth repeatedly emphasizes the importance of nature to an individual’s intellectual and spiritual development. A good relationship with nature helps individuals connect to both the spiritual and social worlds. As he explains in the prelude a love of nature can lead to a love of humankind. He talks about the value of nature in his poem, “World is too much with us” people become selfish and immoral when they distance themselves from nature by living in cities. Humanity’s innate empathy and nobility become corrupted by artificial social conventions as well as by the squatter of city life. In contrast, the people who spend a lot of time in nature, such as laborers and farmers retain the purity and nobility of their soul.

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Kathleen Norris writes Beautiful Places
beautiful landscape. Source: Vacation Idea

Kathleen Norris provides a comprehensive look into the significance of Dakota in her life as a spiritual topography, both defending and questioning her own motives for staying in such a sparsely- populated area in the Beautiful Places. She finds conviction in the Benedictine monks which have made Dakota their permanent home, despite the instability which is characteristic of the land, “we have become as indigenous as the cottonwood trees… if you take us somewhere else, we lose our character, our history may be our soul” (405). She also sees the beauty in appreciating the subtlety within nature as her heart steers her away from the suffocating atmosphere of cities like New York City, instead favoring the force that is nature with its ethereal elusiveness. She has confidence and resourcefulness which has allowed to her stay in Dakota, which are necessary traits to have in order to persevere in a town where its majority has left.
Norris has patience and tranquility which allows her to thrive in an area with seemingly low levels of stimuli, she cannot escape the nature that surrounds her by flocking to humanity and its groupings and yet she feels a sense of calm and comfort. Norris’s affinity for the vast and rugged places on Earth reflects her passion for the purity of character. She describes the Dakota as “The Plains” and admits that they are not easy to live on. The weather is harsh, the opportunities are minimal and the population is homogenous. She explores that most people are “bored: they turn up their car stereo, count the miles to civilization, and look away” (403). Everything is natural and so are we. Life is as far as, we know, unique to mother Earth and our sentient appreciation of life is unique to humans.

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Therefore we must respect life and we must respect ourselves and each other. We must strive to develop and expand our inner and outer capacity for living in ways that are consistent with all life, and the realization that everything is connected with everything else. This perception of nature is a deep and authentic human intuition which arguably precedes all types of religious formulations and which forms the basis for spiritual feelings and cosmic authenticity. “[n]ature is also fundamentally linked to our human spirit and provides a space in which we can connect spiritually with ourselves and with something greater than ourselves” (Mary Jo Kreitzer 261). So, nature brings us calm, balance, and connection at all.
Norris argues that New York is her spiritual geography place because she has wrestled her story out of the circumstances of landscape and inheritance. So, here nature is a form of God because that creates the divine power in the human world. Nature does not always have a positive effect on us. Sometimes it can be quite negative. It also shows a threatening side and teaches the characters that nothing is perfect. Nature is powerful in both negative and positive ways. Moreover, she emphasizes that “holiness in Dakota is to be found in being open to humanity in all its diversity” (54). The human anger, distrust, grief, and pain can be controlled after seeing the pristine beauty of nature. Many people motivate in South Dakota because of its yard rich with fruits and flowers not only that but also its modest and hard-won garden offering  Columbine, daisies, and mint.

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So, this all natural object that enthralls to human beings.  According to St. Hilary, “Everything that seems empty is full of the angels of God” (406). Here in this nature, human beings are supposed to have a beautiful inner landscape after watching a storm pass from horizon to horizon fills our soul with a reverence that makes our soul expand to fill the sky due to the power of nature. E.F. Schumacher argues that “the eternal race for growth in material prosperity increasingly came at the cost of alienating us from nature, from each other and from our basic deeper, spiritual and more authentic needs and potential” (189). The new mindset has to be capable of including the inherent value of other forms of life and of life itself. Life is created out of the apparent mess and mistakes of nature.

beautiful lake in south Dakota
a beautiful sight of the lake. Source: Only In Your State

The inert wisdom of nature always knows when to let go and release new forms of life and social contracts.
Even technology and commercial innovation are ultimately expressions of the urge to create what is innate in human is nature. Settlements, Towns, and cities are a highly integrated part of surrounding ecosystems with small-scale urban forms all around. Spending time on contemplation and various forms of mediation becomes an important part of life as a way of connecting with one’s inner nature. Science acquires a deeper quality as a pursuit of knowledge and insight about nature that is valuable in its own right. After all, science is a way of acknowledging and connecting with nature. Some psychologists like Marcus and Barnes claim that connecting more with nature can help improve depression, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem help with impulse, control, decrease post-operative recovery time and encourage new social behaviors in patients with dementia. They found that more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed.

In another study, ninety-five percent of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside changing from depressed, stressed and anxious to more calm and balanced. Nature is so restorative because we evolve in nature. Norris narrates that, “as it turns out, the plains have been essential not only for my growth as a writer, they have formed me spiritually. I would even say they have made me a human being” (406). She brings up the fact that most people view the Dakotas as a place to drive through as quickly as possible to get their destination because the Dakotas “are devoid the human presence.”
Norris claims that “this is where angels drown” is an irony because angels do not die; however in a more metaphorical context is to say that one must be humble even in place of such vast beauty as the plains. In this essay, Norris’ beautiful description of the plains in Dakota definitely makes it easy to feel some sort of spiritual sensation. The world is beautiful with the various attraction of nature like forest, rivers, lake, and mountain because it all give human feelings, emotions to be a romantic one. Therefore, there is an outlook off serenity and tranquility on like that can only exist in nature. The openness genuinely allows for an appreciation of not only nature but also one’s surroundings. According to Longinus, “Nature has the sublime beauty or it contains the power of sublimity” (27). It is very beautiful that provides pleasure to human beings as well as makes them forget their pain and suffering when they enjoy in its gorgeousness though it is so vast, complex and powerful that our senses are unable to perceive and describe it. The only genius person or people with high imaginative power like Wordsworth can visualize and experience its beauty.

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Also, read:

The conclusion section of The Valorization of Nature in Norris’s The Beautiful Places

To sum up, nature is that wholeness of matter and space and time that holds and sustains us. Nature encourages us to see everything- rocks, soil, water, sky, animals, insects, and people-as seamless and connected, part of a large whole (something so large we have trouble imagining it). Yet our human birthright also gives us consciousness, the conviction that we are each of us separate from everything and everyone else. We certainly feel like unique individuals and most of our actions and judgments assume that we are free to separate, independent people. So we are able to see ourselves as part of nature –part of the wealth of offspring and we are able to see ourselves as separate from nature, individually and collectively capable of manipulating nature examining it, and understanding it.

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But it is duality, doublings that form the center of our relationship with and inside nature. Nature as the source of all consciousness, nature as the source of religious experience and potentially religious understanding; or nature as mute, indifferent, radically no intelligent-nature only as what we say it is the result only of biological, astronomical, and geological processes all of which are themselves essentially mechanical. So, nature is the teacher of creation in literary art.  As nature makes the people are great and romantic because of its deep feelings and emotions of human consciousness. Even today nature is worshiped as a divine object because it provides aesthetic pleasure as well as concerned about the fate of human beings. Therefore, naturalist worships nature as the divine power of God in everywhere of the entire world.

Works Cited

Hornby, A.S. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary. 8th edition. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2010.

Wordsworth, William. O Sweet Spontaneous.  Elements of Literature: Poetry. Ed. Comely,

Silverman and et al. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978: 613-614.

Longinus. On the Sublime Theory of Literary Criticism. Ed. Raman  Seldon. Singapore:
Longman Singapore Publishers, 1983.167-168.Print

Kreitzer Jo, Mary. Healing With Nature in Mind. University of Minnesota Press,2005.

Anderson, Lorraine, Scott Slovic, and John P.O’ Grady. Literature and the Environment: Reader on Nature and

written by Bharat Kumar Karki

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