Coleridge's closeness to nature

I read something this week that really made me think. I’ve chosen a few lines that I want you to read, too. Can you guess what they're from? 

The Sun-shine lies on the cottage-wall
Ashining thro' the snow—
The merry nightingale 
That crowds and hurries and precipitates
With fast thick warble his delicious notes;
As he were fearful, that an April night 
Would be too short for him to utter forth
His love-chat, and disburthen his full soul
Of all its music!
A dunghill at a distance sometimes smells like musk, and a dead dog like elder-flowers. 
Very fond of Vegetables, particularly Bacon and Peas.—Bacon and Broad Beans.

It's an odd collection, right? 

These quotes come from a notebook written in 1795 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 

The notebook is a small collection of 89 pages containing chaotic and dissonant entries—recipes, quotations from contemporary works, reflections on Coleridge's marriage, and so on.

He made these observations between 1795 and 1798. 

I'm obsessed with old books like this for many reasons. 

One thing I love about them is that they come from another era. 

When Coleridge made these notes, he didn't have an iPhone to distract him. 

He couldn't—and didn't drive—to the grocery store. 

He wrote these notes by candle or sunlight. 

What was his world like? 

I grew up in the late-90s and early 2000s. I've used a computer almost every day since I was ten and carried a smartphone for about a decade. 

These technologies—not to mention the innumerable others that differentiate my lifestyle from Coleridge's—affect my mind and spirit. 

As I read through Coleridge's notebook earlier this week, I couldn't help noticing that every entry referenced the natural world. 

He observed the moonlight reflecting in his son's eye, the sunshine on his cottage, the aromas of feces and death, or the "vegetables" (beans and bacon) he preferred to eat. 

His notes on the nightingale song stood out to me most of all, though. 

You see, I'd recently returned from a one-hour walk with my dog through the same path I walk every day. 

Yet while Coleridge so keenly observed his nightingale, I couldn't remember hearing one birdsong on my recent walk. 

At that moment, I realized I couldn't name one bird species or identify one birdcall despite walking at least an hour through the woods behind my house. 

How detached must I be from nature to not know its names? 

To not have the vocabulary to describe the smells, sounds, and sensations I experience outdoors every day? 

And yet, if you asked me to describe the components of a bicycle, laptop, or car, I could name dozens. 

One of my core motivations in writing The Sunday Experiment and creating Beloved Experimentation is to discover healthy ways of being in the world. 

What could be healthier than knowing the critters and beings I see, hear and smell every day? 

Join The Sunday Experiment
Form submitted successfully. 👏🏻
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. 🤷🏻