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Archive for September, 2013

I am sitting in the middle of a city in Scotland. It is a marvelous exhibit of what man chooses to design, to build, to construct. Yet all of the materials from which it is made are from Nature in some way. It is hard to remember this in its greyness ’tilll I see the stones and natural materials of a few of the older lovely streets. In the newer ones, Nature is hard to see as the source material, the materials of Nature chewed, fired and flattened out.

In that I cannot see mountains or green hills over these past few days, I’ve looked with longing for that which humans can neither design nor construct, for I need that sense of something bigger than humans and human-hand constructed around me. I need it for my soul.

I need to see and feel that which humans cannot fashion to remind me there is something bigger, larger, grander than ‘just us’ in this world and in this Universe.

And I’ve found a few trees still left standing in patches here and there, a few pigeons which fly at head-level, and a few gulls crying overhead, which are not human-made  I saw a river yesterday, and knew it was not originally made with human hands, though possibly is now re-channeled by human forces. I found a bee stuck in the packaging of my cabbage at the grocery store last night. I didn’t really want cabbage, but I bought it in order to let it fly free out the door when I departed rather than perish in a man-made cooler, and it did fly into the dusk. I hope it found the pots of flowers under the street lamps.

In all this human-construct I’ve wondered:  If humans could design a mountain, would we build one? Would we, if we even could, construct a complete habitat, or even a wilderness, and could we even begin to put together such a complexity with the success and ease of miracle as we witness when green-growing things emerge between the sidewalks and stones of our chiseled, flattened streets?

Would we — could we — ever ‘re’join Nature to fashion that which we seem to not have the power or miracle-ability to create: A mountain, a valley, a habitat in its entirety, a wilderness? Would we choose to, even if we have the power and comprehension if not also wisdom, to do so?

Habitat: We find ourselves trying to ‘re’build it, to ‘re’ construct it from our challenged understanding of its workings. There is so much we don’t know. As John Muir wrote in his journals (and so frequently misquoted; this is the original and accurate version):

“When we try to pick out anything by itself

we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken,

to everything in the universe. “

 

And about Wilderness, something we cannot re*build as then it is no longer ‘wilderness’:  We are learning we humans do best when we let the Nature take over an abandoned area to create itself anew through a power we do not comprehend. That is our hope for ‘best’ when we have already destroyed, in moments and years and centuries of not being at our best, that which we cannot create or re*create.

 

What we can do to help the process of Nature re-wilding we are yet learning. This week the first report on the possibilities for Rewilding Europe are being presented in London at the Zoological Society, as a pre-event to the 10th World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain.  I am so very grateful to be in attendance, where we will listen, learn, and wonder:

How best can we humans help to re*store that which we cannot ourselves build, fashion, style, or create?

 

In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.

The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.

John Muir

John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

 

 

Thanks to The Sierra Club for the works and quotes of JM.

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“(Tu) as courage . . .”

 

As I write in my other blog, Here you Begin, I was blessed with these departing words a little under a decade ago by a lovely older woman, a beloved mom of my friend.  She knew a bit about what she spoke to me in French: As courage:  Have courage. She’d done work with the French Resistance as a teen in her native France and she’d raised two girls on her own as a mother who’d been left by a husband and father when her children were still young. She knew what it was to have courage and she said this to me as I was facing the beginning of some challenging times in my own life-time here.

 

I took the words to heart; the encouragement gave to me a model of grace and fortitude I would attempt as I faced the coming storms buffeting my own home and family at the time. And I knew the phrase to mean both to “take heart” and “to have courage”, especially when used as a phrase when departing, as she intended.

 

What I didn’t know till this week was how the now-superstar “researcher-storyteller Brené Brown described courage. (TED talk here from a year ago; (yes, I’m behind cultural times still):

In one of its earliest forms, the word courage literally had a very different definition than it does today.

 

Courage originally meant

“To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” . . .

 

That is what we do, we who write about the Earth, Nature, the wilds, the wildlife, the environment, the places we love that are larger than our ourselves and our constructed homes, the places we can neither construct nor re-fabricate: the Wilderness of our Earth-home.

We speak our minds by telling all our heart – and we do it because we ourselves are moved at that which we experience in our hearts as being achingly beautiful and achingly forgotten in this busy world. We do so because we can’t keep quiet.

And we do it to move you . . .

 and you and you and you . . .

 

. . . to care about that which is largely unseen but is the habitat and source of our sustenance: Nature. The Earth, our home and habitat, whether wild or struggling under pavement.  We do it to make the unseen wild Nature of our home visible, potent to the senses, brought to mind and perhaps even share our sense of how vital these places are to our lives and to Life for all of us. We do it to nudge ever so slightly this tumbling world toward a Culture of Care rather than the current Culture of Consumption we have created this last 100 + years.

 

I have done so for my whole career of — yipes, 35 years — as an environmental journalist and writer about Nature, but also as a teacher and mother.

I do so in the hope that by being moved, finding a place in your heart and soul to see a world of more than humans, to see a world of Nature, you too will be caring enough to participate in caring for Nature. You’ll be moved in your heart, and perhaps even moved to take action, whether in terms of conservation, stewardship, of giving voice and notice to the invisible Natural world through art, protection, engagement, or introduction of your heart’s engagement with Nature to others.

 

The work of writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers — as conservationists — takes courage to express against the cultural ‘norm’ of the language of economic value, use, utility, consuming, and willful destruction of our Home and Habitat that is Nature.

So thank you for making the connection. Thank you for reading, for considering, for creating the connection between Nature and human life, however you do it.

To those who do this work, thanks for having the courage to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart about our beautiful, and in my way of seeing it, sacred Earth.

In a couple week’s time, the  Tenth World Wilderness Congress will be assembled in Spain. There will be a lot of voices there, all having courage to speak out for Nature. I hope you’ll follow along and take heart if not courage to open yours to the Work we can do together.

 

 

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