I was particularly fond of poetry in those days, and I had a passion for the beauty of nature. Every summer, when the university was on vacation, I went to stay with my mother at our little bungalow on the Blue Mountain, high above the hot, dusty plains and far from the hectic rounds of academic life. At that point in my life, I would have assured you that I knew what beauty was; I drank from its wellsprings every day. But as my meditation deepened, I was amazed to find a new world opening up before me. At times it seemed that every tree I looked at had leaves that shone; every stream rushing down the hillside glittered with a brilliant light I had not seen in all my poetic observation. The birds’ songs had become so beautiful that I felt I was hearing them not just with my ears but with my whole being. I remember thinking to myself, where have these wonderful birds come from?
In particular, I recall one day when I had just arrived for the summer, and saw the two jacaranda trees that stood in front of our home. I had seen them often, of course. They bloomed each year in mid-April, and my mother always said it was because her boy was coming home. But that day their blossoms were transfigured. In the early morning light they sparkled like so many vibrant jewels.
Suddenly I realized that what had changed was not outside in the trees and streams and birds, but inside me. As the mystics say, I was seeing the world by the light within. Through years of dedicated endeavor, the lamp had been lit in the depths of my consciousness, and all of nature had assumed an indescribable splendor. I recalled another stanza of Wordsworth’s poignant poem – lines that evoke all the beauty of this compassionate universe and all the tragedy of lost ideals. When I had taught that poem to my students only a few months before, I had not understood what I was teaching:
The rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the rose;
The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
That morning on the Blue Mountain, I understood. Through my grandmother’s grace, I had recaptured that glory, and it would never leave me. From the jacaranda blossoms on the Blue Mountain to the birds and seals on the farthest shore of the Pacific Ocean, the entire world had been placed in my hands. It was mine to love, to protect, and then to pass on – a little greener and more peaceful than I had found it – to another generation.
May you too recapture that glory – it belongs to you as it belongs to every human being – and may you light the world with it.