Beauty and the Natural World

Capturing Nature’s Beauty Richard Fray: Richard is a wildlife photographer living in Tucson, Arizona. He is is entranced by the beauty he finds in nature and takes some absolutely riveting photographs. Read about his work and see some of his photographs here. He also supplied the photographs for our web page on Hummingbirds.

The Aquarium Aquariums capture the creatures of the sea bringing us glimpses of an alien habitat. The oceans and sea  hold a fascination for us. To be on a beach and watch the waves roll in pounding the surf as they have for countless millennia can induce a reflective state of mind. Is this fascination with the sea some kind of yearning for the home of our primeval origins?

The Beauty and Poetry of the Chinese Garden Linda Robbins: For the Chinese it seems there is no gardening without poetry, and, in fact, the four arts of gardening, poetry, calligraphy, and landscape painting are inextricably interlinked. It is believed that in order to be expert at one it is necessary to be equally proficient at the others.

Gardens of Myth and Legend Linda Robbins: Beautiful gardens have been part of human experience from very early times and in many cultures the creation stories involve gardens. These myths, including the story of man’s disobedience, are strikingly similar in many cultures.

Early Developments in the History of the Garden Linda Robbins: Initially gardens were found, not made, as they were beautiful naturally occurring spaces which impressed people because of their location and/or the atmosphere created by the geography of the particular area. These were considered to be either the home of the Gods or the gardens of those favoured by them. We can all recall finding such places (glades ) when exploring the countryside, but these tend to be sensitive sites which do not survive human intervention and, while inspiring delight, are not ‘useful’ in a utilitarian sense.

The Japanese Garden and the Art of Suggestion Linda Robbins: The Japanese see the garden as an interpretation of an idealised understanding of nature. There is a wish to understand something of the essence, and this is seen throughout history in the different types and expressions of gardens that have emerged, and are still designed today. The two main belief systems of Japan, Shinto and Buddhism have inspired the varying designs. Ancient Shinto belief was that places surrounded by natural rocks, or dense clusters of trees were the homes of the Gods, and that water encircled holy ground.

The Beauty of Persian and Islamic Gardens Linda Robbins: It seems that gardens became an important part of life early on in ancient Persia. At first Iran seems to be a hostile terrain in which to find such wonders. One can imagine how exhausting the hot, arid countryside must have felt to its inhabitants, and how much a cool, shady place would have been appreciated. The landscape is brown, but turns red when the light from the setting sun is reflected on it.

The Zoo Scientists think that about 6,000,000 years ago we shared a common ancestor with the chimpanzees and it was about then that humankind began to slowly diverge from the natural world. Animals have attracted, fascinated, and frightened human beings for millennia. What is our relationship to animals and to the natural world? Are we just part of the natural world or are we part of it but also transcend it somehow? Is man just an animal? Or are we animals but also something more?

The Garden The garden has an ancient history in both the Old and New Worlds. The Mixtec Indians of Mexico had a creation myth set in a garden which has similarities to the story of Adam and Eve. The Aztecs had gardens and cultivated flowers as did the Sumerians, Egyptians and Romans.

Animal Photos There is a good selection of animal photos here so that you can enjoy the beauty, strangeness, and wildness of them.

Animal Sounds Howl like a wolf, growl like a jaguar, roar like a tiger.

The Butterfly Butterflies are among the most beautiful and enchanting of insects. The metamorphosis  of the rather dull, ugly, earthbound larva of the butterfly, the caterpillar, into the delicate flying palette of the adult butterfly has captured the human imagination for millennia. It has served as a metaphor of hope and the longed  for spiritual transformation of the soul as well as the transformation of the body.

The Horse A beautiful horse and a competent rider are a delight to watch. They seem to function almost as one. The horse epitomizes the beauty of the domesticated ungulates. Ungulate is the term used for mammals which gradually developed hooves from claws during the course of evolution and are also typically characterised by living on the land, a mainly herbivorous diet, and, generally, are fairly swift.

The Hummingbird Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world and only found in the Western Hemisphere from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. They were called joyas voladores, flying jewels, by the early Spanish explorers. The number of estimated different kinds ranges from about 300-343. Body weights range from 2 to 20 grams. For example, the bee hummingbird which is found in Cuba weighs less than two grams and measures two inches from bill to tail.

The Jaguar The jaguar is a powerful and beautiful member of the cat family which ranges from northern Argentina to the southern United States. It has a beautiful pelt and is similar to a leopard but is more powerfully built with a deep chest and stocky legs. It both climbs and, unusually for a member of the cat family, swims well.   Including its tail a male jaguar can be up to nine feet long and weigh up to 350 pounds. They are solitary animals and meet up only to mate.

The Orchid Orchids are among the most beautiful and renowned of flowering plants. They are members of the family Orchidaceae of which there are three subgroups: a) Orchidoideae b) Cypripediodeae c) Apostasioideae. They are generally herbaceous perennial plants and it is characteristic that their flower has three petals-one of which is often like a lip. Estimates of the number of different species range from  15,000-30,000 species which is a huge difference!

The Polar Bear The polar bear is the largest land based carnivore. Unlike its relatives in the bear family, particularly the grizzly from which it descended about 70,000 years ago, it is almost entirely carnivorous. In the arctic regions the polar bear is undoubtedly at the very top of the food chain. Male polar bears range in length from 2.5 to 3 metres and weigh from 350-800 kilograms. Females are smaller ranging in length from 2 metres to 2.5 metres and in weight from 175 to 300 kilograms.

The Tree Tree are the largest of all living plants and are the oldest of all known living things. Babies and small children are often entranced by the beauty of trees and many are occupied for ages lying in their prams looking up at the waving branches. Older children like to climb trees and build tree houses. This affinity that humans have for the beauty of trees may well be instinctive and evolved in us over countless millennia.

The Wolf There is a haunting beauty to the lonely howling of wolves on a northern Ontario night. It is a sound which captures the imagination just as the wolf has captured the imagination of peoples from different cultures down through the millennia. The wolf figures in many myths, legends and folk-tales. Undoubtedly this is because it is highly intelligent, very sociable, and an object of fear.

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