Delight in lives that were not human

From W. S. Merwin’s essay The House and Garden: The Emergence of a Dream, published in the Kenyon Review (click for the full text here):

No story, though, begins at the beginning. The beginning does not belong to knowledge. I have been asked fairly often how I came to care about living things that are not human — for all that is commonly referred to as “nature.” There is a suggestion, sometimes, that a sympathy of that kind is somehow eccentric. Such use of the word “nature” seems to refer to something apart from “us.” Yet the sympathy seems to me natural, even if the overt first impulse of living organisms is rarely generous. I cannot remember a time when I did not feel that attraction, that delight in lives that were not human. I have a vivid recollection of one moment of it when I must have been hardly more than two years old. I was walking with my mother along the sidewalk on New York Avenue outside our house in Union City, New Jersey. Sidewalks then were commonly made of flagstones. Right outside our own picket fence I saw, between two flagstones, tender new shoots of grass so young that the light passed through them. It must have been spring. I bent down to look, and I asked my mother where the grass was coming from. I remember my happiness, the sense of reassurance I felt when she told me that the earth was right under there.



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