Nature is a Living Being. Animals and plants have souls, and a spirit. Each species is unique, and yet we are all interconnected, human and non – human species alike. This is more than a both and perspective; its multi-dimensional.
Many books are written about using nature to heal humanity of its ills. ‘Recreate’. Climbing a mountain, or taking a walk are common examples of using nature to help ourselves, but how many of us are asking the question of how we can give back?
This is a question I was obsessed with for about thirty years and may be the reason I gained entrance into this seemingly secret world that we call Nature.* When I experienced unconditional love from both animals and plants I needed to reciprocate in kind. This idea of reciprocity between humans and the rest of Nature is probably similar to what Indigenous peoples experienced because they loved (or feared) and learned directly from animals, plants and trees. They respected animals, for example, for their unique qualities. Indigenous people never psychologized Nature the way westerners routinely do.
I rarely read books about Nature anymore because I am so troubled by this psychologizing. From my point of view psycho-babble is just another way of dismissing the reality of Nature as a living feeling, sensing, sentient Being.
To demonstrate psychologizing as a “normalized” way of looking at Nature I use a recent argument that I read as an example: Humans assign meaning to individual animals, trees etc. where there isn’t any, or because of projection (the unconscious human tendency to ascribe human tendencies onto non human species). Or, more generously, these entities have intrinsic meaning of their own, but whatever it is has nothing to do with us. In the first meaning is absent. Projection dismisses nature as irrelevant useful only as an appendage to human centered thinking. In the third argument nature may have meaning but it has nothing to do with humankind. With these arguments dominating our thinking, it is no wonder that we are destroying the planet.
We are totally split away from the experiential, the idea often based on personal experience, that we are related to other living creatures.
The purpose of Nature is not to serve mankind. Nature’s primary drive is to ensure the survival of all species. Does this mean that S/he has no interest in humans? Quite the opposite. There is a peculiar “both and” aspect to Nature. Although focused on the whole Nature seems to need and thrive on personal attention; S/he responds to our devotion allowing for example, the animals we befriend, to offer friendship in return. As a naturalist I have been privileged to enter into a relationship with Nature that allows me to ‘converse’ regularly with individuals and even the elements, especially that of water.
Experiences in Nature, if we are in relationship with her elements/creatures sometimes reveals new information or a glimpse of the immediate future. Here’s a painful example:
Yesterday I saw great blue heron fly into a nearby bog – the first thud. I call this one the ‘dark god’ because usually when I see a heron I can expect some personal difficulty to arise (it is ironic that I find these birds so beautiful). Later, on the phone with my son, I witnessed and dimly registered the retreating male grouse as a deadly mother – son conversation unfolded. The birds’ combined presence in one day: the heron, and later, the grouse (the one bird I associate with my son) retreating behind the fence as I was on the phone speaking with him revealed the eventual outcome before it occurred.
Desertion in time of need.
The appearance of these two birds also indicated that nothing I could have done would have mattered.
The script had already been written.
The reader is probably wondering how this happens. Here is one possibility: the soul aspect of an animal that is closely connected to a particular person might be constellated during a time of positive or negative emotional intensity. I define soul as the invisible bodily aspect of self – it’s personal – not transpersonal – that can move through the space between a human and a human or a human and an animal that an individual has a relationship with. Or both. The strength of relationship is key to this form of communication, which can also be termed telepathic. In this case I was familiar with the grouse as a bird that was tied to my son’s life in an intimate way. The birds’ behavior preceded my son’s actual rejection, which didn’t actually occur until hours after the phone call ended.
It is my experience that heightened awareness allows us to read Nature much like we would read a book and that what we have to do is to pay close attention to our relationships (either positive or negative) with our non – human relatives, something I do as a matter of habit during the course of each day. I note that these occurrences also seem to increase in frequency and peak during times of natural power like solstices and equinoxes. So it is not surprising to me that this incident occurred so near the summer solstice, a time of almost blinding light.
* I capitalize the word Nature not necessarily to deify the natural world but to highlight “Her” importance, and to protest the earth’s apparent insignificance to westerners. I experience different aspects of Nature as both female and male.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.
12 thoughts on “A Blinding Light? by Sara Wright”
Sara, I don’t know if you have read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass”, but you would love it. Her autobiographical stories about plants include all of nature in a reciprocal relationship with humans and teach us how to give back. It is an excellent book. I am only half-way through.
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Yes, I am familiar with her work – thanks!
I really loved this piece. I also have come to understand that all plants, animals, beings have souls and consciousness, and that we are an integral part of Nature. S/he loves us and we are not a pox upon the earth, but a struggling species that may or may not survive as such.
I have never really worried about how to give back, but rather how best to treat the Earth and her creations and to live on Her/Him with respect and care. I think the reason I haven’t worried about how to give back is because I have been teaching about ways to work with and connect with plants for years–with love and respect and care, and I feel that every time someone becomes aware that even one plant may have more use than they realized, they will start to treat the environment with more care and consideration. My work in this life is to connect people and plants.
It is interesting that this popped up today as just yesterday I was thinking about how much I still think about how to use every plant for some human purpose, and I was just realizing that that is very limited and limiting and that often, just leaving land alone without trying to use it for anything is what is best.
Thank you for writing this.
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We do have the tendency to “use ” nature without thinking about reciprocity… how do we give back? – I work with both plants and animals and that question is never far from my mind.
Let’s hope that people do begin to think about Nature in different ways than we do now. As things stand we are destroying her.
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Yes, in many ways we are, but I have faith that before we can do in Mother Earth, she will do us in. I have no doubt that she will recover from our abuses. She just shouldn’t have to.
Gosh, i don’t think that is the point. Humans will probably die out as a species – we are too destructive – but this is in the long term – and meanwhile irreversible damage is being done to sentient beings. This is a real problem for me. We take but we don’t know how to give back.
I actually disagree with you. I think there are many humans who only take, but I think there are also many who give and and work to take care of our Earth. It’s a lot harder to see the quiet good than the loud destruction. I also have a fair amount of faith in us humans. Maybe I am wrong, but I hang onto that or I would be too depressed to do anything helpful.
I agree entirely with Iris’ final comments, and would add two things:
To say “We” don’t know how to give back, implying that characterizes all humans is seriously disrespectful to the countless selfless people working in countless realms, now and in the past, to nurture, mend, stop violence and destruction, and so on.
Also, in the evolutionary time frame, it is metaphorically only a few seconds since humans overpopulated the planet and ran into the wall of finite “resources”. We’re collectively changing our long-evolved behavior astonishingly quickly by that measure. And look at the huge difference between the assumptions common in those over 70 and those under 30.
I think there is every reason to be energized and part of the change.
Blessings and peace to you.
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Never thought of the forest green, as “blinding light.”
But here, your photo, thanks, Sara, yes indeed,
it says — that’s absolutely true & lovable.
yes, it really is like that – thanks
A wonder-full, thoughtful post. Thank you.
Oh, thank you… you know I really love that post too – often i write to find out what I am thinking…and what is being said here is important – especially to those of us who are dreamers…