No one, probably, has ever much doubted that these things are nice. Clouds, trees and streams represent nature in its most gentle, tranquil guise. Their appeal is instinctive. But we take them for granted. They form a pleasant background to other things: out of the plane window, we catch sight of a sea of clouds. Truly lovely – for a moment. Then the cabin crew come around with the sandwiches and you’ve found some episodes of Mad Men you’d missed. Your cousin’s wedding reception was in a garden of old oak trees, they were stunning – but that was two years ago, and you may not have looked properly at a tree since. There was that stream you used to love playing in as a child, damming up the flow till the water eventually protested and swept away your rocks. There must, theoretically, still be lots of streams. But the adult world is often decidedly stream-free.
The problem is a lack of encouragement to focus on these natural elements. In a busy and remorselessly practical age, there are few explanations around as to what the point of such focus might be. And yet spending moments of close observation with clouds, trees and streams may in fact play a minor but important supporting role in the pursuit of a balanced and more or less sane life.