All is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And, for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things…
Gerard Manley Hopkins, from “God’s Grandeur”
After our usual winter hiatus from blogging, we’re excited to begin posting again! It has been a mild winter and early spring here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Since we spend the school year living on the outskirts of a sizeable city, I’m often reminded in the spring time of Hopkins’s sentiments in the poem above. We live in a world of concrete, ugly architecture, chain stores, and cars. Even in the lovely countryside where we spend our weekends and summers, one finds neglected properties, junk piles, more ugly architecture, and certainly more cars. Sometimes it seems the world is being sapped of its vitality and that its very heart must be crying out for renewal.
And yet, as Hopkins point out, nature is never spent. There lives the dearest freshness deep down things. We underestimate nature and its power to renew itself. One has only to step away from one’s garden for a month to realize how quickly nature reclaims its birthright. This is reassuring. Beneath the ugly shell we have too often placed as a veneer over nature, nature is pulsating with life beneath.
Hopkins is the sort of person I find most interesting: one who defies stereotypes and preconceived notions. He was a Catholic priest, innovative poet, and life-long classicist, equally at home writing poetry about nature and the Virgin Mary. Although not many people realize it, the Catholic tradition has always esteemed rural living and small scale agriculture, from G.K. Chesterton to E.F. Schumacher. For more on this tradition, see Kevin Ford’s excellent blog, from which Catholics and non-Catholics alike might find inspiration.