A gospel for me


The mail doesn’t seem to bring me very much, anymore. There are bills to pay, and an occasional card from a relative, but the idea of opening up my mailbox and finding something interesting seems to belong to another time now. But today was different.

An envelope in my mailbox resembled the “plain brown wrapper” that is sometimes used to hide suggestive materials. The idea of getting something like that in the mail seemed funny to me, so I decided to open up the envelope and see what was inside.

It turned out to be a 2014 calendar from the National Park Foundation. The Ken Burns series on National Parks has been running on PBS this week, and that makes this week a perfect time to send out mailers relating to the National Parks. Having been to many of them over the years, I love that there are so many scattered around the country.

The envelope included a calendar for 2014, along with a fundraising letter for the benefit of the parks. The calendar is very nice, and it’s a reminder of how lovely places like Glacier National Park and the Everglades really are.

For each month, as most calendars do, there is a picture above the fold, and the calendar part of the month below it. At the bottom of the calendar part for each month, there is also a nature-related quote from a well-known writer or public figure. And the saying for August caught my attention, as it read “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” The quote was attributed to John Burroughs, and I wanted to find out more about him, as his words so succinctly described why nature is so important.

It turns out that the quote came from the “Gospel of Nature,” which he prepared in response to a request from a minister. I found the writing online, and read it with rapt attention this afternoon. Here was somebody who really got it, I thought. It was clear that Burroughs cherished nature, and was able to explain why. By the end of it, I understood that Burroughs was a man to admire. I also learned that his work was published a century ago by Houghton Mifflin, a forerunner of the company that I work for today.

When Burroughs passed away–a few years after preparing his gospel–he left a large volume of writings behind. I hope to read more of them in the days and weeks ahead. But it took a calendar inside a brown envelope to bring some small snippet of his words to me, a century after they were first authored and shared with the minister’s congregation.

The act of preparing these words, and then having them published, means that I–and anyone else who happens upon this calendar–will be able to appreciate Burroughs’ thoughts. And while that may not have the beauty of an Everglades sunset, it’s something to marvel at, in its own way.

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