Geology for Global Development

Environmental Symphonies

Environmental Symphonies

Unlike the more typical content, this blog post does not consider our earth’s environment as a challenge to overcome, or a risk, but guides us in using its landscape as a mental resource. Join Cecilia in her reflections on the landscape of Mount Fuji and let her help you to access the wonders of nature indoors.

Take a moment to think about a piece of artwork that speaks to you. A piece that immediately stops you in your tracks and demands that you notice it. It calls you with its beauty, its timelessness and its magic. In that moment, it sees you, it holds you, it understands you and it is perfection on earth.

It is so perfect; it is easy not to see the underlying story and process this piece of art went through to reach that point of emotional calling and perfection. A process that in fact, most likely, was a total mess. Beyond the art gallery, the film screening, the photography exhibition or the debut concert, we do not see the state of the artist’s studio, the filmmaker’s countless retakes, the painstaking number of photographic edits or the musician playing deep into the night, constantly recomposing that final verse.

to bring this moment to life: the earth has ripped itself apart, time and time again, to bleed magma onto its surface and gradually build the strong volcano we see

The same can be said about the landscape. In fact, it was a photo of Mount Fuji, in Japan, that inspired me to write this piece. The volcano itself, dressed in fluffy pink cherry blossom trees and surrounded in soft blue skies, stopped me in my tracks (admittedly, that was just me scrolling through Facebook) but still, I paused, nonetheless. It called to me and its magical beauty momentarily captured and transported my mind into another realm. This symphony of a landscape between earth, season, weather, time and space, fleetingly invited me into its collaborative production.

But, just like the artist, nature too must go through its processes of change to produce a final piece full of awe and inspiration. Its own symphonies do not just happen. Indeed, to bring this moment to life: the earth has ripped itself apart, time and time again, to bleed magma onto its surface and gradually build the strong volcano we see; it tilts itself towards and away from the sun so that we may enjoy the season of Spring; water is carried in the skies and across the globe, and deposited like pearls of wisdom to feed and nourish life itself. All these processes involve change and uncertainty, yet the earth gracefully dances through them all. It bends, flows, tilts and spins in response.

Daoism, an eastern philosophy, concerns itself exactly with such processes. Its teachings involve appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life.  I wondered, living in a city myself, and far from any truly inspiring natural landscapes, how might we cultivate a process of appreciating, learning from and working with our current physical environment? How might we currently find and invite nature and its inspirations into our homes?

Right now, I am in my living room, looking out the window, listening to an easy jazz playlist on Spotify and sipping on rooibos tea. The view is not exactly Fuji in Spring but, nonetheless, there is still a beauty to behold. As I listen to Isabella Ivanova’s playful piano version of As Time Goes By, the soft glow and warmth of a corner lamp and the branch of a tree hanging by my window, bejewelled with raindrops, relaxes me into a contemplative lull. As I slowly arrive into my immediate environment, I feel as if it is welcoming me with open arms. Comforting me into a deep-seated stillness. A stillness within its symphony.

I think about change again. The constant spanner in the works to our lives and those of the world. Or is it? The uncertainty and emotional discomforts change can bring are overwhelming, and indeed, the more I resist them, the more debilitating change itself can feel. But, when I choose to get curious and meet my immediate environment, exactly how it is, with an openness in heart and mind, I am always pleasantly surprised how nature comes to meet me too. It is in this space, where, seemingly out of nowhere, an inner jewel of knowing is revealed. The same feeling, I get when in the great outdoors, can be manifested indoors when I choose to use my imagination to meet change with humility, courage and grace – dancing with change, just like our planet does.

So how might we begin to access the wonders of nature indoors and get curious about change?

  1. Allow something to inspire you. It could be a picture of a glorious landscape, a piece of music that you find exquisite or, simply, a flower or tree on your daily walk or run! Author, Elizabeth Gilbert, explains that creativity is simply ‘the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration’. Start to explore your relationship with the mysteries of inspiration by letting things in your immediate environment capture your attention with its beauty.
  2. Listen to your instinctual response. In that moment, what is it that calls you? Do you feel called to think, to read, to write, to play music, to dance, whatever it is… trust your own encounter and let it lull you into its space. Poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, says that beauty is all about exploring these thresholds where we can encounter and where we move into new change in our lives. It is in this inner landscape of the mind where we can feel fully alive.
  3. Keep Practicing. The more we practice this entering into the world of imaginary beauty, the better we get at hearing and listening to our inner voice and truth. It, undoubtedly, will challenge your current perceptions and world. But, to imagine and regenerate a world that so desperately needs regeneration, getting comfortable with the practice of creativity must come first. Remember, it is a process just like the formation of Fuji in Japan. Whatever you feel called to do will not be perfect. It’s going to be messy and full of wrong and right turnings, but, nonetheless, try creating something. Just for you. No one else has to see this. Just you. Maybe someday, you will choose to share this creation, but for now, it is your treasure to keep. Yours to enjoy. Your world of beauty, magic and timelessness. The key to finding it, is just to begin.


Without the added pressure of having to accomplish or “do” something else during lockdown, see this as an opportunity to do the exact opposite. To access a freedom of sorts. If we are to continue in indefinite uncertainty, we might as well get curious and make use of our current surrounding environments to see what we can create. Referencing, for the second time, one of my favourite creatives and people, Elizabeth Gilbert, she writes:

‘The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living.’

I wonder what you might find during your hunt into your environmental symphony.


Cecilia Reed

Follow Cecilia @ladyrockuk (Twitter) & @lady_rock_uk (Instagram)Follow us @Geo_Dev & Facebook.

This guest post was contributed by a scientist, student or a professional in the Earth, planetary or space sciences. The EGU blogs welcome guest contributions, so if you've got a great idea for a post or fancy trying your hand at science communication, please contact the blog editor or the EGU Communications Officer to pitch your idea.