|Kadmon / Allerseelen|
I think my most "philosophical" connections to forests and mountains, for example, took place while I was in Heidelberg in my early twenties, traveling, listening to lectures by Gadamer shortly before he passed away, and researching the likes of Ernst Juenger, Martin Heidegger, and German romanticism and idealism.
There along the banks of the Neckar River, along the Philosophenweg - where Goethe, Hoederlin, Jaspers, Juenger, and Heidegger all walked - I became transfixed by the philosophical power of nature as I came to appreciate it from the romantic perspective, informed by my studies at that time. Of course, at a much, much earlier age - in my teens and even before - my "spiritual" love for nature was fostered while growing up in the Pocono Mountains (mostly in Cherry Valley, which is now a nature preserve), taking hikes with my sister or even sometimes going alone into the forests simply to sit in silence and think quietly.
From an early age, I learned, that if anything, the power of nature, its utter and absolute indifference and stubbornness, at times, affords its sublimity and lines of religious insight.
To that end I remember how I actually came to first have that thought as a philosophical kernel for future work. I was enticed by the romantic and dare even I say mystical-idealist moments of Plato and Hegel, but also the German Romantics (German romanticism, mostly Schiller, influenced the American pragmatists, especially C.S. Peirce - as Peirce adored Schiller's Aesthetic Letters).
I remember Gadamer once saying that he believed that it was nature's ability - its aesthetic ability - to disrupt our most deeply held convictions and beliefs - that made the understanding and unification of nature and art through dialectic a spiritual exercise (Gadamer was influenced by Plato and Hegel alike). Reading a natural semiotic, then, this occurs in a sort of environmental "saturation." While in Germany that stuck with me mostly through a cultural lens of course, but the romantic notion of it is something that I've kept since. Reading or encountering a natural semiotic, that is, nature as semiotic, is as much a spiritual exercise as it is an aesthetic one. And vice versa.
[UPDATE: During the summer of 2017 I re-visited Europe, and in addition to Netherlands, Italy, and elsewhere, I revisited the "Philosopher's Path" in Heidelberg. Twenty some years later. Who would have known. A far off land and time, but the fixation and immersion, the natural love for, the world of nature remains the same.]