Gun-metal grey clouds jostled with patches of baby blue as a keen wind whipped this wild corner of west-coast Scotland. Brightly brilliant sunshine making a valiant charge against incoming showers flung at the headland from The Minch strait.
I rounded the curve of path flanked by blooming heather and bilberry, white-tipped waves to the left of me and huge hulking mountains in the distance before me and was quite literally stopped in my tracks at the sight before me.
A double rainbow, brilliantly lit with saturated colour made a perfect arc in symmetry with the domed hill behind.
This was the day before my birthday, a day which has sad resonance for me for reasons I won’t expand upon, and I was – as I so often am – thinking about my beloved Mum who I miss so deeply since she died two and a half years ago, and my dear, dear Dad, my rock, who cared for her with such devotion and now must soldier on without her.
I’m not ashamed to say that the droplets of rain hitting my face became intermingled with welling tears filled with so many emotions: wonder, awe, grief, loss, gratitude at this incredible moment of grace.
Was it a sign from my Mum that actually, all is well, and all manner of things shall be well?
I’ve no idea, but what I do know is that finding these moments of beauty, of wonder, of meaning in nature strikes to the core of what it is to be human. And what it means to realise, understand and find comfort and solace in the awareness that we are part of nature and the great cycle and turning of all living things.
Do we take enough time to seek them out or to really notice them when they arrive unexpectedly? Not often enough.
Noticing beauty is one of the five pathways to nature connectedness developed by the University of Derby. It’s about taking time to find and appreciate the beauty in nature and engaging with it perhaps through art, words or music or simply by being still and in the moment in its presence.
Finding meaning in our experiences with nature is another of the pathways. How tuning in to the signs and cycles of nature can help us discover how the natural world creates meaningful experiences that resonate with and enrich our lives.
In her book “The Fight For Beauty”, Dame Fiona Reynolds talks about how nowadays, “you would have to search hard to find the word beauty in any official document. Indeed, in formal dialogue we seem to be deeply uneasy talking about something that feels so personal and emotional.” I certainly feel that awkwardness as I write this blog piece!
She continues, “….no politician today gives speeches about beauty. And it has become a no-go zone in legislation too. But it wasn’t always like that. Beauty was a word and a concept that people in previous centuries used freely and confidently, and Acts of Parliament were passed whose aims were simply and clearly to protect the beauty of Britain’s countryside, wildlife and history.”
Spending two weeks exploring the far north-west coast of Scotland all the way from the farthest point of Cape Wrath right down to the Isle of Raasay, it’s no exaggeration to say that there were “wow!” moments of staggering beauty around every corner: soaring sea eagles, gannets nose-diving at break-neck speed into azure seas, sunsets glowing orange, crimson and buttery yellow on the horizon, bleached white sands tickling turquoise waves, and the shifting, ephemeral site of the green and violet Northern Lights, not once but twice!
In a world so often – too often and too much – focussed on the material, the individual, the drive for technological and economic advancement, we are in danger of losing the space, time and ability to seek out and appreciate what can really bring us peace, joy, fulfilment and belonging – nature’s truly wondrous, majestic, awe-inspiring, breath-taking, spiritual and meaningful beauty.
Take a moment today to appreciate it – if not now, when? And let’s reclaim these vital moments of wonder and awe in our language and in our experience, and elevate nature’s beauty to its rightful place of importance in our lives.