Friday, June 12, 2009


After receiving the following email from Starcross Community this morning, I took this photograph of the blue flowers on my porch:

“Nature Brings Solace in All Troubles …”

The title is a quote from Anne Frank. Her birthday is this week, June 12, she would have been 80. Perhaps it is because I am only 2 years younger that I have always felt it important to remember her.

I was happily beginning another school year in 1941 when Anne, and all Jewish young people were expelled from Dutch schools and colleges. The USA was still a few months from war. In 1944 I had few concerns except what was happening on the playground the day when Anne was transported to Auschwitz. In April 1945 my school year was nearing a normal end when Anne and her sister Margo died in Bergen-Belsen.

Life here at Starcross is happy and hopeful, but I am increasingly aware that many whose lives touch us are in difficulty. The financial troubles, fueled by irresponsibility and greed, move in waves. Some withstood the first shock but are now overpowered. This summer we are trying to offer a respite for those who can come to breathe in the air of this space I call home. The first gathering will be June 27-28. But only a few people can find solace here. Parents are dying. Children are dying. Dreams are dying. At times like this I like to remember what Anne wrote from her “Secret Annex”, cut off from the life she loved:

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. ... Riches can be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness again, as long as you live. As long as you can look fearlessly up into the heavens, as long as you know that you are pure within, and that you will still find happiness.

It sounds like pretty corny advice, but it is awfully important to find that solace nature can bring in this beautiful and promising time of year. Sure, not many of our friends can wander the olive groves, but we all can find the transcendent nature Anne wrote about – in our own backyards. Another of my Dutch heroines is Etty Hillesum, who was older than Anne but walked the same path and who died in Auschwitz in 1943. Etty was a pretty secular person who once told God in a prayer:

You cannot help us, but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the last.

In the horrors Etty faced she did find help at a particularly hard time. Just outside the wire fence of the camp Etty spotted a small clump of blue flowers. She and her friends would daily stand on the barren earth of the camp and look at the flowers. They would come away with a view of life which transcended the troubles of their lives.

There are little blue flowers on the edge of our woods. I think everyone will find something like them in their own backyard or down the street. Let us all become aware of them. They are very important at the moment.

Your brother,


mum said...

Spent some time harvesting linden flowers this afternoon. Just me and the bees, working around each other. A great way to settle the mind. Nature does exactly what Anne Frank wrote in that excerpt. Anyone who thinks it's corny was probably never deprived of their freedom - or simply needs to take a walk and discover what it feels like.

Have an excellent weekend, am.

The Solitary Walker said...

This is most moving, and has helped me at this moment in my life when I'm feeling particularly low. Thank you.

gleaner said...

I like this reminder that although everything may seem wrong with your life and surroundings there is a little corner of the natural world waiting to give you solace.

Anonymous said...

clearly the power of this blog has its lasting affects on us all. a flower, a line, an image, we all relish the next offering and appreciate it. kjm.

am said...

mum -- As Bob Dylan said, "Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues / you can tell by the way she smiles." In the original painting, she may well have been finding solace in nature. I like the image of you, the linden flowers and the bees.

Solitary Walker -- Kind wishes. Was wondering why you hadn't been posting on your blog. The music you posted in the last few days moved me.

gleaner -- Nature is filled with possibility. Good to know Toby's email spoke to you.

kjm -- Thank you for your words and images!