emerson-thoreau

AlumKnights: Changing seasons

Mar 28 • AlumKnights, Features • 613

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“The earth laughs in flowers,” American writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, and if that’s true, spring must be the happiest time of the year.
There are very few occasions quite as effective as the return of spring to evoke thoughts of liberty, joy, infinite possibility and a love for nature. While it is still possible that a stray snowflake or two could yet visit the Erie area, the coldest, snowiest days are behind us and we can begin to trade boots for sandals and evenings cuddled up under warm blankets in our dorms and apartments for afternoons spent in the sun.
The arrival of spring is heralded by many benchmark activities. For local Erieites, it often means home improvements, planting a garden, getting boats and fishing gear ready and stopping by some favorite local ice cream stands.
For Gannon students, spring is welcomed with the events of Springtopia – I hope you had a chance to check out some of the happenings last week – and being able to maneuver from class to class and building to building without having to walk like a penguin and without wondering how just a few minutes outside can sometimes make the skin on your face hurt so much.
As for me, a Gannon English major and now an adjunct professor of English, spring always makes me think about American Transcendentalism and the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. While they enthusiastically embraced nature and all of its seasons – Thoreau has a wonderful essay about autumn leaves and I think that one of the most beautiful American poems about winter was written by Emerson after a snowstorm – I naturally and unfailingly think about these authors and their works every year when robins return, flowers start to bloom and the air begins to carry that uniquely “springy” smell, especially at night after a rain shower.
For the Transcendentalists, nature offered a sacred paradise not to be found anywhere in society, where the human mind could find a freedom that wasn’t as possible in any other setting. They believed that the human mind was under attack from many outside societal influences that would cause almost any individual, no matter how confident, to doubt, dismiss and even be ashamed of his or her own ideas. Nature helped the individual to escape all of that and to realize his or her unlimited potential.
Transcendentalism never ceases to inspire me with its unbridled energy, connection with nature, celebration of the human spirit and love for the human mind. I hope that you will take some time this spring and summer to head outdoors (reading a Transcendental essay – I recommend “Self-Reliance” and “The American Scholar” by Emerson and “Life Without Principle” by Thoreau –while sitting in the grass somewhere would be a great start) and to connect with your own invaluable thoughts.
The Transcendentalists exalted nature through their lives and their writings and they loved the idea of renewal of the natural world. This is a perfect time to start celebrating with them.

EMILY MARIA CONAWAY
alum001@gannon.edu

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