On Being Human: What Nature Can Teach Us

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Let’s face it: being human can be hard. Especially in the throes of fear, shame or anger. Most people are not taught how to navigate psychological challenges in healthy ways, and even if we do know, sometimes we are pushed to our limits and exhaust our own inner resources. How do we learn to deal with difficult human experiences? It’s an age-old question.

Maybe nature can teach us. As “woo-woo” as it may sound, seeing nature as a teacher can put certain aspects of our human existence into perspective. This insightful and humorous poem below by Naima Penniman provides a reframe on the human condition from the perspective of the natural world, urging us to find acceptance and even self-empathy for our own suffering.


I wonder if the sun debates dawn
some mornings
not wanting to rise
out of bed
from under the down-feather horizon

if the sky grows tired
of being everywhere at once
adapting to the mood
swings of the weather

if clouds drift off
trying to hold themselves together
make deals with gravity
to loiter a little longer 

I wonder if rain is scared
of falling
if it has trouble
letting go

– Naima

if snowflakes get sick
of being perfect all the time
each one
trying to be one-of-a-kind

I wonder if stars wish
upon themselves before they die
if they need to teach their young
how to shine

I wonder if shadows long
to just-for-once feel the sun
if they get lost in the shuffle
not knowing where they’re from

I wonder if sunrise
and sunset
respect each other
even though they’ve never met

if volcanoes get stressed
if storms have regrets
if compost believes in life
after death

I wonder if breath ever thinks of suicide
if the wind just wants to sit
still sometimes
and watch the world pass by

if smoke was born
knowing how to rise
if rainbows get shy back stage
not sure if their colors match right

I wonder if lightning sets an alarm clock
to know when to crack
if rivers ever stop
and think of turning back

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if streams meet the wrong sea
and their whole lives run off-track
I wonder if the snow
wants to be black

if the soil thinks she’s too dark
if butterflies want to cover up their marks
if rocks are self-conscious of their weight
if mountains are insecure of their strength

I wonder if waves get discouraged
crawling up the sand
only to be pulled back again
to where they began

if land feels stepped upon
if sand feels insignificant
if trees need to question their lovers
to know where they stand

if branches waver at the crossroads
unsure of which way to grow
if the leaves understand they’re replaceable
and still dance when the wind blows

I wonder
where the moon goes
when she is in hiding
I want to find her there

and watch the ocean
spin from a distance
listen to her
stir in her sleep

effort give way to existence

by Naima

Penniman, Naima. “Being Human.” Climbing PoeTree, created by Naima, Retrieved August 23 2022 from https://www.climbingpoetree.com/experience/read-poems/being-human/ 
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