Learning the “Ah” of air

Breathing is a wonder we take for granted. This is the first sentence of the essay titled AIR by Alan P Tory in his book ‘WONDER. Learning the “Ah” of things‘. I was struck by the poetic language that Alan uses and by the wise words of a Zen Master he shares, that we must learn to understand the “Ah” of things. To admire the works of art that surround us in everyday life. Through images, sound and excerpts of Alan’s text it is my turn to share the “Ah” of Air.

In his book ‘WONDER. Learning the “Ah” of things‘ Alan Tory explores the myriad of meanings of twenty words that have the power to evoke a strong sense of awe and wonder. His essays on the elements – Air, Sun (fire), Water and Earth – are lyrical and thought-provoking.

The images and video that follow are accompanied by prose from Alan’s essay on AIR (any text in italics is mine). For me, Alan’s writing style is captivating. It complements another post I’ve written titled ‘What is Air? You may be surprised!‘. Such an essential and wondrous element as Air can be represented in many ways.

Air is… the mainstay of a celestial art gallery which makes pictures of surpassing beauty.

The rainbow and snow-covered landscape are among air’s effortless masterpieces.

The blue dome of the sky, the clouds scudding across it, the glories of sunrise and sunset are visible to our eyes because the air holds in suspension water vapours and ice crystals and hosts tiny dust particles that reflect and diffract light.

Air is…shield and protector of life. Sustainer of vegetation and partner in sun-activated laboratory which generates oxygen for human and animal lungs.

Air is..rain provider and arbiter of climate and weather.

Air is a…blanket against the cold of outer space.

Less well known perhaps, air is… a highway of sound (try putting a ringing bell in a vacuum). The Tibetan and Japanese ‘singing bowls’ in this short video demonstrate this wondrous feature of air.

The rainbow and snow-covered landscape are among air’s effortless masterpieces (this observation is worth celebrating more than once!)

The fury of the hurricane and the havoc of storm and flood are explosions of energy which balance the tenderness and beneficence of air. Terror and beauty, wildness and calm, tearing apart and healing and ending – all belong to air.

Rachel Carson – famous as the author of Silent Spring –  also celebrated the sense of wonder, as I’ve explored here. Like Alan and the Zen Master, she saw the awe and beauty in the world around us. Rachel understood the “Ah” of things.

The last words go to Alan. He writes that the aim of the exploring and celebrating the twenty words in WONDER is to carry one step further an impulse to learn, and to extend awareness of what waits to be enjoyed in our World, and more important, what asks to be done to look after it.

2 thoughts on “Learning the “Ah” of air

  1. A big ‘Ah’ from me for your lovely photo essay on Alan P. Tory’s wonderful book. The images are beautiful, Jann. You capture these sights so well. It’s also great that these books from earlier days can still be found.

    • The title caught my eye at a second hand shop where I only had to pay $1 for this book of wonder. No longer in print, it was written in 1973 based on lectures to Alan’s students. These were the words they wanted to know more about. What great classes they would have been. I wonder if such lessons are taught now?

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