A granddaughter reflects on how Peale's message and the simple, powerful beauty of nature intertwined.
Posted in , Jun 15, 2018
“The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person.”—Norman Vincent Peale
On May 31, my grandpa, Norman Vincent Peale, would have been 120 years old. Though he lived a very long and fulfilling life, I know he would love to still be here. There is so much of today’s world that he would embrace, especially the myriad of ways to share and spread the message of God’s love and grace with millions more people. My grandma, Ruth Stafford Peale, would be right there with him, capitalizing on his creativity and using her tenacity and ingenuity to enrich the lives of others through new modes of communication. Despite the ever-expanding world, they would keep their message simple, yet powerful, timely and timeless. They were very good at doing that.
What I also know Grandpa would continue to embrace is the natural world around him—the simplicity and the power of its beauty. Grandma and Grandpa spent as many weekends as they could at their home on Quaker Hill in Pawling, New York, where the landscape was filled with interesting trees, especially one of Grandpa’s favorites, the Japanese maple. They spent time during those weekends in Pawling working, but I also have very strong memories of them taking drives to see the beauty of the seasons.
In the springtime, he and Grandma, often with my parents, would drive up to Sharon, Connecticut, the back way, to admire the lush greens of the trees and the lawns and to take in the beauty of the lilacs at so many of the stately homes. In the summertime, they would make their way to Quaker Lake, where they, in their country clothes, would sit, side by side in the shade, taking in the glimmer of the sun on the lake, the shimmering of the trees, and the breeze through the pines. In the fall, they would take in the vibrant, changing leaves as they drove around Quaker Hill. And in the winter, they enjoyed the purity and the glistening of the blankets of snow that graced their property.
Grandma and Grandpa took the time to observe and be present in the seasons and the fruits of each, even the harshness of a storm, for in each they saw the workings of God. And as Grandpa said, “The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” They were restored by taking in the simple, yet powerful, natural world. And they needed every ounce of energy possible to accomplish all they did.
I often think about Grandma and Grandpa’s mission of giving inspiration to others though God’s word, their own stories and the stories of others. Their mission was simple, yet deeply powerful, just as our natural world is. Simple in how our seasons repeat themselves, yet powerful in how they can present themselves, through their beauty and their destruction. The seasons are timely (with the possible exception of this spring’s arrival), and the blooming blossoms, the peaked mountains, the changing leaves and the scents of each season are timeless, much like Grandma and Grandpa’s message. We all count on our natural world to do its thing, just as so many of us count on the presence of God and His grace each and every day throughout the seasons.
I have never wondered why Grandma and Grandpa Peale took such pleasure in their seasonal drives, as I always knew there was something sacred and reverent about them. The respect they had for the simple, yet powerful, natural world was evident, as was their deep respect for the timely and timeless message from God: That we are all loved and valued in His eyes. We are a part of God’s natural world so He speaks to us, too, when He says, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” (Psalm 96:11-12)