Transitions….and Nature…

With the beginning of 2011, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about transitions and how the natural world doesn’t let us forget change.

I grew up in a small town in Western Massachusetts and four years ago, my husband and I moved back to that town, after living on Boston’s North Shore for over 20 years. I have always been inspired by nature in my design work and get a sense of connection that I find in no other way, when I am out walking, whether in the woods, along the ocean, etc. (Photos by Patrick Zephyr,

In New England, the changing seasons alone don’t let us forget about new beginnings and endings; no matter how clichéd the phrase “…the only real constant is change…,” it’s true both in the natural world and in ourselves.

The tides, the changes in daylight throughout the year, and a myriad of other phenomena in nature highlight transition.

We have many great authors and poets who have written about nature, and pointedly about nature in New England, and in this new year, thought I would finally start reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s book “ Nature” published in 1836, something I have been intending to do for a while. (All quotations, in italics, below are from “Nature.”)

According to Emerson, nature has a profound impact on us:

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.


Emerson identifies the need for humans to embrace and redefine the natural world for themselves, and in Emerson’s view, we need to add a spiritual element to truly appreciate nature. How can we take this appreciation and more of nature and use it to express ourselves?? Emerson noted that:

All men are in some degree impressed by the face of the world; some men even to delight. This love of beauty is Taste. Others have the same love in such excess, that, not content with admiring, they seek to embody it in new forms. The creation of beauty is Art.

The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic (distillation) of man. Thus in art, does nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.

My interpretation of Emerson’s writing, then, is that the creation of art is really a synthesis of human and nature together. I look forward in the next few weeks to reflecting in this blog on how this synthesis works in interior design – how everything from color to texture to furnishings are derivative of human experience with nature. And getting back to transitions…moving from nature/outside into interior space and once inside that interior space moving through it….