Part of a work in progress:
To learn from nature is to have our own lives enriched. In this way, the lessons of nature benefit us—nature, as it were, does us good. And this good comes to us free of charge, as a gift. One might say that we pay in the currency of time, we must pay for these lessons with patience, but the practice of attention and the silencing of the self so that others may speak is itself a benefit rather than a cost. The “price” of learning from the natural world is simply the price of cultivating intellectual and moral virtue. Thus, we not only learn from nature in a first-order sense, but also learn how to learn. And what is the proper response to these gifts but gratitude? Some will ask: “But who shall we thank?” But I do not see why it is inappropriate that we simply direct our sense of thankfulness to the tree, or the mountain, or the bird, or the sea. If it is not incoherent to feel gratitude toward a deceased family member who leaves us a fortune, then the problem cannot be that nature cannot say, “You’re welcome.” Neither can our loved ones who have passed. Some will say: “But nature has no intention to teach us.” But this is often true of the people from whom we learn, whose accomplishments or efforts or ideas inspire and improve us, though they do not know who we are or that we even exist. If their example benefits us enough, we are nonetheless filled with gratitude, and no one would find it strange if we thanked a stranger for the good they have unintentionally contributed to our own life.