Connected

Is childhood a time where we are deeply connected to nature?  Wordsworth reflects upon his childhood when his mind is so intertwined with nature that it is continuously in his thoughts.

After I had seen 

That spectacle, for many days my brain

Worked with a dim and undetermined sense

Of unknown modes of being.  In my thoughts

There was a darkness- call it solitude

Or blank desertion – no familiar shapes

Of hourly objects, images of trees,

Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields,

But huge and mighty forms that do not live

Like living men moved slowly through my mind

By day, and were the trouble of my dreams. (Wordsworth, 365)

Wordsworth’s thoughts were composed of emotions after seeing a huge cliff one evening, this was a connection that he had made with nature.  This connection Wordsworth felt with nature was so strong that he had “trembling hands” (412) when he was leaving the sight of the cliff.   Even after the sight of the cliff was over, he still had lingering feelings about the scenery.  Wordsworth felt a sense of darkness and loneliness after simply seeing a huge cliff.  His innocence in the lack of knowledge about the cliff gave him the motive to associate the “huge” cliff to “mighty forms that do not live like living men” (424-25) and these were the thoughts that appeared in his mind and even seemed to trouble him.

His childhood allowed him to see the cliff in a different light than when he was an adult due to the innocence that he possessed.  He connected with nature in a way that only a child could experience because he was still young and pure.  The cliff itself was not described into full details, but the passion that it evoked was the connection that the child had with nature.  In the eyes of the child, nature provided him with thoughts that resounded even into his dreams.

The connection the young Wordsworth had with nature was that even after the sight of the cliff had passed, the thought and feelings he felt from nature was still constantly on his mind and affected his thinking.

The notion of childhood’s relationship with nature raises a question of whether it was only during the Romantic Period that childhood possessed that deep connection with nature or can we have such an intimate consciousness of nature in our present times as well?

 

Wordsworth, William. The 1805 Prelude Book First. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume D The Romantic Period 9th ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.

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8 Responses to Connected

  1. Athena G. Csuti says:

    “The notion of childhood’s relationship with nature raises a question of whether it was only during the Romantic Period that childhood possessed that deep connection with nature or can we have such an intimate consciousness of nature in our present times as well?”

    In regards to this last question, I have another question to raise. Was it nature that brought this out in him, or was it his own childhood curiosity and lack of understanding of the world around him? When I consider my own childhood experiences, I can relate to a degree to what Wordsworth describes. The beauty of nature that was all around him evoked powerful emotions, vivid memories, and later a source of contemplation. I can remember moments like this as well, just being struck by the world around me. This happened for me with nature, but with human made things as well. Memories of my first time seeing and understanding what a spider was held the same intensity for me as the first time I saw a semi-truck (both times I was shocked by their size and their difference from me). I don’t know if that is necessarily comparable to Wordworth’s experience seeing the cliff, but it seems like a start?

    So what I wonder is would Wordsworth have experienced such passion about the environment around him if he grew up in a city in the 90s? Was it nature, or his youth? I am not sure if it is a matter of having intimate consciousness of nature or just having a different type of consciousness as a child. Only he did not have traffic to stare at, he had cliffs and trees.

  2. teresastapor says:

    “His childhood allowed him to see the cliff in a different light than when he was an adult due to the innocence that he possessed.”
    This line struck a cord with me because the “innocence that he possessed” it something that I was thinking of. “Innocence” seems to be the key theme within the poem, not only in the innocence of a child but also the innocence of the nature. Nature, in a way, is innocence and pure, much like children. When he juxtaposes the child’s innocence to the purity and innocence to nature we can see the beauty of what is around us. Maybe, that is why when we are children we are so connected to nature? Most kids can remember a moment of absolute awe when in nature. Mine is the first time I went early morning snowboarding in Panorama. I got off the chairlift, sat down to put my binding on and it was struck. It was the absolute peaceful, quite with the snow falling, and not a soul around. Just me, the mountains, and the snow.
    Maybe the reason I remember this so clearly due to the fact it was my first time, completely alone in nature? Or maybe, just the innocence of a child trying to cherish the moment? But, either way, it is something to take that moment and appreciate it.

  3. madelynbrakke says:

    To answer your first question “Is childhood a time where we are deeply connected to nature?” I think that as children we see nature differently than how we see it when we are adults. When you are a child–like Teresa mentioned–nature gives you a sense of awe because it is new to us. However as we age I think we begin to take nature for granted and we lose that initial sense of awe. I find Wordsworth hints at this in many of his poems, especially Tintern Abbey, when he reflects on nature and how it never changes yet we do not notice its beauty as often as we did when we were children.
    I also agree with your points about children and nature being connected through innocence. Although we often relate children to innocence I had never really thought about nature in the same way. Similarly to how we take nature for granted as we age, I think many of us take childhood for granted as well.
    Great post Olivia!

    Madelyn

  4. mattgigg says:

    Whenever I read anything that has nature as a major theme I re-read this essay:
    William Cronon – The Trouble With Wilderness
    http://www.williamcronon.net/writing/Trouble_with_Wilderness_Main.html

    It’s a bit of a read, but I highly recommend it.
    With regards to your post, there is one section from this essay that reminds me that the ‘awe’ Wordsworth experienced as a child when seeing the cliff was at least still possible when he was a young adult:
    “For the early romantic writers and artists who first began to celebrate it, the sublime was far from being a pleasurable experience. The classic description is that of William Wordsworth as he recounted climbing the Alps and crossing the Simplon Pass in his autobiographical poem “The Prelude.” There, surrounded by crags and waterfalls, the poet felt himself literally to be in the presence of the divine—and experienced an emotion remarkably close to terror:

    The immeasurable height
    Of woods decaying, never to be decayed,
    The stationary blasts of waterfalls,
    And in the narrow rent at every turn
    Winds thwarting winds, bewildered and forlorn,
    The torrents shooting from the clear blue sky,
    The rocks that muttered close upon our ears,
    Black drizzling crags that spake by the way-side
    As if a voice were in them, the sick sight
    And giddy prospect of the raving stream,
    The unfettered clouds and region of the Heavens,
    Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light
    Were all like workings of one mind, the features
    Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree;
    Characters of the great Apocalypse,
    The types and symbols of Eternity,
    Of first, and last, and midst, and without end. (14)

    This was no casual stroll in the mountains, no simple sojourn in the gentle lap of nonhuman nature.”

    While I haven’t yet concluded how Wordsworth feels that nature changes with age, I personally feel only our understanding of it changes, but the ‘awe’ and perspective it can provide are always available.

    Also, the question you asked:
    “The notion of childhood’s relationship with nature raises a question of whether it was only during the Romantic Period that childhood possessed that deep connection with nature or can we have such an intimate consciousness of nature in our present times as well?”
    Cronon’s essay also adresses this. Our ‘consciousness of nature,’ or as Cronon calls it ‘wilderness’ is something entirely created by us. A drastic change in how we view nature occurred between the desolate and barren biblical images of nature and the sublime images that came out of the Romantic era. I would say our view of nature in the present is still very closely tied to the ideals of the Romantic era, especially with today’s environmental movement having ties to the industrial movement just as it did when Wordsworth was writing.

  5. Ali Bayne says:

    I’d like to expand on Athena’s thoughts about this question;

    “The notion of childhood’s relationship with nature raises a question of whether it was only during the Romantic Period that childhood possessed that deep connection with nature or can we have such an intimate consciousness of nature in our present times as well?”

    I believe that it was purely the curiosity and wonder of his unknowing mind that provided such description of nature. When you’re growing up, everything around you is new and exciting. But what is the difference between a small child being excited about a big cardboard box and a grandparent marvelling at the new iPhone? Is this sense of curiosity limited to childhood? One idea would be that this sense is more active when we are children, as absolutely everything is new and exciting, yet our capacity to truly understand something is limited. A child gets just as excited about the cardboard box, in all it’s simplicity, as the iPhone with it’s pretty flashing lights. Another idea is that as we grow older we lose the sense of novelty regarding everyday things, like the cardboard box, but looking at an iPhone we can get excited about the genius of the features.

    Is the ‘purity’ of childhood curiosity truly poisoned with age? Are we less impressed with things to do with nature in favour of new technologies? Is this a horrible effect of industrialization on the human race, or an essential force behind technological progress?

  6. carlyferguson1 says:

    The notion of childhood’s relationship with nature raises a question of whether it was only during the Romantic Period that childhood possessed that deep connection with nature or can we have such an intimate consciousness of nature in our present times as well?

    This is an interesting question. I think that the innocence and purity that a child possesses allows for them to experience that awe inspiring feeling due to new experiences itself, but certainty in a different light than adults. With that being said, I struggle to remember an experience as a child that created a feeling of inspiration within myself. From what I remember, nature was just nature. I did not (from what I remember) appreciate nature, or the inspiration that came with it. With age comes maturity and understanding. That is where I came to appreciate these feelings. Now I look to nature for inspiration and appreciation, and understand and connect to it for all that it is. The breath taking moments I appreciate in nature have only come to me recently from a place that I’ve visited summer after summer for 22 years. The scenery of my summer get away makes me feel powerful to the point where I feel that same deep connection as Wordsworth had as a child.

    As times have certainty changed since the Romantic Period, I am very tempted to say that because of technology, society and the fast pace lives we live today, that it is a lot harder to connect to nature as a child. The appreciation, awe inspiring feeling that Wordsworth experienced as a child, is a lot harder to reach in this day in age. I believe that feeling is met, once you have an understanding of what life is.

  7. mrubling says:

    To answer your last question, I agree with what Carly said. I feel that today, children are, and at such young ages, distracted by technology. Rather than going out and really connecting with nature, they get distracted by phones/ipads/laptops. Of course this is the case with adults too (It’s surprising to take a look around on the C-train and see how many people staring into screens, myself included). I remember my own childhood during which I was raised abroad and spent more time outdoors than in front of the TV or my computer. I’m forever appreciative of that experience and closeness with nature I once had but I now realize how that connection has, sadly, really waned as I got older. Great post!

  8. daynaaasen7 says:

    I have to admit that your question “The notion of childhood’s relationship with nature raises a question of whether it was only during the Romantic Period that childhood possessed that deep connection with nature or can we have such an intimate consciousness of nature in our present times as well?” kind of caught me off guard. My mind immediately wanted to say “Of course we can still have an intimate consciousness of nature today like Wordsworth was able to have as a child in his time period!”. But then as I started to actually think about the world today, I started to backtrack. The fact that this even needs to be questioned is sad to me. When I look around at kids today, I know that they have been growing up in a generation that just doesn’t care about being intimate with nature. I see kids who are 5 years old playing with iPads, watching DVDs, fiddling with their parents’ iPhones EVERYWHERE they go. They can’t go a few minutes without being “entertained” and consumed by technology. Kids nowadays don’t know how to just sit in silence and absorb the present surroundings. I have to admit that I am often this way as well. The fact that so many friends of mine have never even been camping saddens me deeply. We live in a city so blessed to be so close to this immense natural beauty, yet we rarely take the time to notice and appreciate it. So to answer your question, I think we possess the ability to connect intimately with nature, but we are rarely able to remove ourselves from our busy, technologically dominated lives to actually apply this ability.

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