When I moved to the mountains my children were grown and gone…
Finally I had land of ‘my’ own with a brook and mountains that was surrounded by forests. I felt protected by something I could not name. I was living on the edge of wilderness and a hunger I had been carrying for all of my adult life was finally appeased.
Although I had a vegetable and flower garden I felt a deep reluctance to cut trees and eventually lost most of my field to pines. When I finally built my log cabin, I did plant fruit trees, but every action was predicated on my need to give back to nature what she had given to me.
This week’s Torah portion is Vayeishev, Genesis 37:1-40:23. The portion covers too much information to address it adequately in one post. Therefore, in this post, I will examine, from a feminist perspective, Joseph, the women in his life, and dreams. While the women in Vayeishev leave much to be desired, its dreams point to an important connection between humanity, divinity, and nature.
Vayeishev starts with the raw jealousy that some of Jacob’s sons have for Joseph. This jealousy is so great that it sends Joseph all the way to Egypt. As a feminist, I have always found it both comforting and completely realistic the way the Torah delves into emotion. Since even the lofty patriarchs are jealous, no superhuman behavior is expected of us. Despite this comfort, I am not happy that it is once again men and boys who take centerstage. We know that these men and boys also had women and girls in their lives.
Unfortunately, an inner darkness has been with me all fall hiding in the corners of my mind and disturbing my body creating headaches and stomach troubles during the day. Although I attempt to protect myself from a culture that I cannot control by not listening to news, watching television, movies or perusing social media I am painfully aware of the fact that politicians on an international level cannot even agree to discuss what to do about climate change – this after 30 years of doing absolutely nothing – creating in me a mindless fury that leaves me in black despair. The time of acting locally and thinking globally is long past. Thinking and doing must occur on a global level. Novelist Richard Powers states the obvious: “People can better imagine the end of the end of the world before the end of Capitalism”. Then we can move to the moon.
I have also been forced to acknowledge how difficult this year has been on a personal level. Aging is affecting my energy level, increasing the severity of depressed states, my sense of inner and outer balance. I am vulnerable and know it although I do my best to begin each day with gratitude as I first peer out at my beloved trees, a little nuthatch or chickadee, gaze at a silver crescent, or celebrate a pale pink dawning.
The older I get the more important the forest becomes to me because it is a place where I find inspiration and peace. I also play in the woods! During the month of October and what I call the “Witching Moon” that has just passed I think of all the women healers that lived alone in the forests with their animal and plant ‘familiars’. These women learned that nature instructs those who apprentice themselves to her. Animals and plants spoke to these women through intuition, sensing, feeling, or through their dreams because these women listened to them. Did these women play too? Westerners fear nature because they are so separate from her. Unable to imagine conversation (let alone play) occurring between women animals and plants, even today women who live close to nature are viewed with suspicion. I know because I am one of them.
I spend a lot of time in a 12,300 acre wood that one family has preserved for perpetuity. Recently these generous people have leased the land to the local land trust so it is getting more attention. I am not sure that this is a good thing. I note the amount of motorcycle and four wheeler use has increased dramatically on the roads that run parallel with the forest; some of the once quiet woodland paths are either echoing or saturated with sound.
If theology is rooted in experience, how do we move from experience to theology? In my life there have been a number of key moments of “revelation” that have shaped my thealogy. One of these was the moment of my mother’s death.
In 1991 my mother was diagnosed with cancer. While she was being treated, I realized that I had never loved anyone as much as I loved her. When I wrote that to her, she responded that “this was the nicest letter” she “had ever received” in her life and she invited me to come home to be with her and my Dad.
My mother died only a few weeks after I arrived, in her own bed as she wished. She was on an oxygen machine, and I heard her call out in the dark of early morning. When my Dad got to the room, he tried to turn up the oxygen, but it didn’t help. Then he called the doctor who reminded him that my mother did not want to go to the hospital under any circumstances.
Apple trees have always been dear to my heart and of course, they are associated with the goddess. What follows is a little story where the goddess is made manifest.
Torn Apple Heart
Three years ago I had a beloved apple pruned – I do not normally prune trees, believing that to do so may harm them, but because I once trusted a young boy who also loved trees, I allowed him to make a few cuts that spring.
Last year my apple struggled and dropped her apples too soon.
This year rain has been scarce except for monsoons that first drown the trees, leave roots barren, with most of the moisture rushing down the hill to the brook. When I noticed so many many apples on too thin young branches I became uneasy….
It’s almost mid August; since mid July we have experienced the hottest summer I have ever endured.
My daughters came to me after Sunday School one day, concerned about a story they had heard in which God drowned almost everyone on Earth. So I sat down and thought about why a community might want to tell that story, and what valuable wisdom might be lifted from it for my children. Here is what I told them:
God/ess has many faces, which help us understand different things we need to know at different times. Sometimes we think of God/ess as Crone, an old, old woman crowned with silver hair as an emblem of her wisdom, who helps us learn to let go of anything that is holding back the wellness of our community and ourselves.
Intolerable temperatures, the air dripping with humidity, unable to sweat, my body catches fire. My aging mind shuts down.
How to find hope in the ruins, not just personally but all around me in dying leaves rife with holes or chewed to bits in late July, flowers shriveling under a merciless sun. A solitary frog croaks from somewhere inside a garden gone wild. Silver swords create an impenetrable bower protecting toads and frogs from within. The scent of bittersweet butterfly weed draws in flaming orange fritillaries, monarchs, bees, a silvery white butterfly with two spots on her wings. A few spikes of scarlet bee balm burst. Flames erupt, crimson, salmon, lemony lilies and golden nasturtiums seduce with sweet nectar. Hummingbirds hover, chirping madly between these and red mint…my breathing is labored – shallow – my body waterlogged and swollen. Together the dogs and I doze lazily, our bodies aching for
I have this image in my mind of standing on one of those moving floors at the carnival. It is hard to get your balance because it is constantly shifting.
The world is constantly shifting at the moment.
It is unsettling.
You think you have found your equilibrium, and then the next experience or conversation occurs. Financial upheaval. Health concerns. People dying.
The fear calls.
Three months officially out of my second marriage, I am still in a transitory period. Juggling as I normally do so many things and people. Which ones will I catch? Which ones will I let go?
Every morning I wake up and stand on my deck with my arms thrown up to the sky in gratitude. I love my deck and my old 1961 home. The deck needs care. I have replaced a couple of boards, but there are many more in need. I wonder if it is even savable at this point.
I let that thought come and go. It is okay for now. It holds my weight.
Nothing lasts forever, and this does not make my top ten list.
The client that I had for seven years on and off is now gone. With my veteran husband gone and now that we have moved to Alabama, I am officially no longer a small Illinois Veteran Owned Business so I will officially no longer be part of their budget.
My main priority right now is finding a job and income. It can be overwhelming. I do not want to sell myself short as I have done the large majority of my life. I also do not want to be in a job that I am struggling. I want to find, like the new relationships in my life, ones that are just the right blend of challenging, interesting and rewarding: ones that fit into the puzzle of my life. The adventure.
At times it seems a high order: especially in the shifting sands of the world at the moment.
Every morning after greeting the sun on my deck, I go into my sunroom and meditate.
The view out of my back window is of crepe myrtles, pines, a maple tree and a corn field. Birds fly past. My cats lie lazily on the chairs. My stones and statues and other precious items surround me.
Isn’t this moment enough?
Isn’t it enough to be happy in this moment?
I start to stress about money or people, overthinking, analyzing and panicking as I am wont to do and then I stop myself.
I remind myself.
It is already here.
The people I want in my life. Who truly see me. Who I see. The ones where we support each other. Allow each other. Touch each other physically and mentally.
They are already here.
The means to pay my bills in ways that fill and align with my soul.
It is already here.
They both just need to catch up with me. Turn a corner, and they will be there. All I need to do is ‘encourage’ the things I want in my life, and let go of the rest.
Step by step. Breath by breath.
The future is already here.
Yesterday I returned from my Land in Appalachian mountains of North Carolina: ten acres of unrestricted land with a bog and a creek on one side and a mountain on the other.
A few days ago, I bought the land. When the check cleared, I was left with $20 in my bank account. I had a momentary panic wondering what I am doing.
But then I left that thought behind as well.
It is the third time that I have been there. It is the first time that I went alone.
I sat. I listened. I meditated. I got lost in the woods climbing up the small hill and forest that is already beginning to feel like home. I napped in my hammock, took off my clothes, sang, danced, cried, touched myself. Said hello and thank you and I will take care of you. Take care of me.
Almost half of my land on the right side is bog or a wetland: nature protecting itself, impassable and overgrown by invasive porcelain berry plants. The last time I came my friend tried to get to the creek and did not even get close: his feet sinking into the earth a foot, a huge smelly fly ridden animal bed, plants everywhere. The real estate description suggested putting in a pond to drain the bog so that you can use the land.
No. Protect the bog. Protect our earth. I deeply respect that side of my land knowing that it is cradling precious carbon needed to maintain the balance of life. I talk to it and tell it that I just need a small way in to get to the creek so that I can have water and a shower. A small path.
I find another way down a road to the creek. A snake scurries away in the water. The neighbor says good, I see that you have a machete. You will need it. I would suggest a firearm as well.
We shall see. I feel the fear and respect that I carry.
This is the Wild. She is often unforgiving. I get that.
But I believe that we can come to an agreement and a relationship.
It is one of the balls that I am juggling at the moment. To get to the land from Alabama, I drive along the Ocoee River, rushing water and rocks, majestic steep mountains forming a gorge. It leads to my land, out of the gorge, up a small highway, past buildings that nature has reclaimed, no chains, few stores and onto a dirt road.
‘Home’ pops into my mind several times.
BIO: Caryn MacGrandle is the creator behind the Divine Feminine App which has been connecting and inspiring women [and other genders too] throughout the world since 2016 as a directory to find Sacred Circles, events and resources. Women find the app each and every day, and it currently has almost 8000 users from around the world. Caryn has also hosted Sacred Circles and events for the past nine years and is passionate about the power of a Circle to heal individuals and the world. She has participated in numerous online and location events such as the World Parliament of Religions in September of 2021 in which she presented a workshop on Embodying the Goddess: Creating Rituals with Mind, Body and Soul and just recently a webinar/panel with Dale Allen presenting Dale’s Indie film award winning “In Our Right Minds: Leading Women to Strength as Leaders and Men to Strength without Armor.” Each and every day, Caryn (aka Karen Moon) works tirelessly towards her belief that the most important area to first find equality and balance is the divinity found within yourself.
In Maine the 4th of July…The bottom line is that women don’t create the chaos and unbearable noise that men do. It comes to a ‘head on the 4th – a time to create misery for all people who are peace loving – just more indication of the breakdown of our culture… I fear that patriarchy may live on until it destroys all we know.
Refuge (before bombing)
A symphony of phoebe song a river of stone blessed by rain…. Beech leaves beckon,
With May coming to a close in a few days, I am feeling nostalgia. This month is both elusive and dramatic – from bare trees to lime green, and now lilacs so heavily laden with blooms that some are bowed as if in prayer. Wood frogs and peepers bring in the night and the first toads are hopping around my overgrown flower garden; in the forests I surprise them when peering closely at small flowers. Gray tree frogs trill at dusk. Violets of every hue grace the earth outside my door along with robust dandelions, forget – nots, rafts of deep blue ajuga, delicate bells of solomons seal, mayapple umbrellas, false solomon’s seal, wild columbine and golden celandine all nestled in long grasses and moss. No mowing happens here!
On my woodland paths starflowers and Canada mayflowers are now so thick I fear treading on even one, as if one foot could destroy the whole. Down by the brook white trillium bloom on, both painted and purple are setting seed, while bloodroot, arbutus trumpets and delicate anemones have transformed into leafy memory. Ostrich and hay ferns are unfurling, creeping blue phlox and dames rocket are budded or blooming; pink and white lady slippers are beckoning both here and in the woods. June is in the air.
In feminism becoming a ‘wise’ crone is acknowledged (it is certainly true that experience brings insight), but the vulnerabilities associated with aging remain hidden. I wonder how much of this silence has to do with shame? Does our culture’s obsession with youth keep us quiet? If so this attitude isolates women from one another when older women need each other’s support more than ever. Lately, I find myself keenly aware that I need to write about the changes that are occurring in my own life so that I remain visible to myself if not to others.
When it comes to the challenges of aging the silence is deafening.
Turn, Turn, Turn
It’s May Day. At dawn I scoop water from the brook, first pouring some on the earth and then, returning to the house, I bless the floor of the log cabin that is my home. I light candles for intentions… Too sensitive to light (phototrophic) I am acutely aware that the wheel is turning her face towards the harsh white glare of summer.
For those of us who are dedicated to feminism and to the sanctity of nature here is one more way to understand the earth as our goddess. Her mysterious veil is the source of all life. Immanence is sacred.
The last winter I spent in New Mexico I walked to the river every morning in the pre-dawn hour. No matter how much the wind would howl later on, at this time of the day nothing stirred besides the birds. Because I traveled the same path every morning circling round one wetland listening to river songs I would find myself slipping into a light trance as my feet hit the hard unforgiving ground. Every bush, cottonwood, russian olive, juniper was familiar, each was a friend. Although this wetland had been trimmed and paths mowed (parching open ground), the majority of trees, plants and grasses had been left intact and the river was nearby. During these light trance states I sensed that the ground beneath my feet was pulsing with some kind of light; that the earth was trying to communicate with me.
At that time I didn’t know that I was walking over of miles of mycelium, because I didn’t know whether these networks extended throughout the desert although I assumed they did. But I felt or sensed something. I knew from trying to garden in NM that the surface of most of the ground seemed quite barren except for the piles of decaying cottonwood bark that I used as mulch, so where was the rest of the mycelium?
What does this little narrative have to do with feminism you ask? Why everything! It speaks to the journey of one woman from young adulthood into old age, a woman who learns along the way that Nature/ Earth/Immanence is also the Way of the Goddess, and that living a life of meaning (in a finite loving body) is the path the goddess set her upon at birth…
It is the day before thanksgiving. For too many years, this was a time of great sorrowing – a day on which a young motherless woman said goodbye to her grandmother… a grandmother she couldn’t afford to lose, and later, much later, a grandmother she couldn’t become….
We’ve just entered November, the beginning of winter, the season of darkness. Twenty-odd years ago, I led a group of students through the Wheel of the Year in a class I called Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. (I also wrote a book with the same title.
I have been re-reading Rebirth of the Goddess reflecting upon my own journey over these past 40 years, remembering how her image appeared to me as a bird goddess the day I first worked with river clay… When I discovered that some of the images I sculpted of bird goddesses mirrored those in Marijia Gimbutas’s The Language of the Goddess I entered an unknown realm. All I understood at the time was that I was being called by some unknown force. I had no idea that this power existed not only without, but within, and that someday I would be able to name both Nature and my Body as the source of that power. And come to understand that they are One.
Summer is a time when we are surrounded by the power of Nature, the impulse to life, balance, and well being. Even small actions to align ourselves with it can create momentous changes and healing within ourselves and towards a more sustainable world. Over the past couple of years, I have noticed a decline in pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds in the small garden behind my home. This may be part of the worldwide pollinator crisis, or the result of nearby housing developments overtaking wild land, or my own past bad gardening decisions. I decided that this year it was time for me to join the many other gardeners worldwide who are creating pollinator-friendly spaces.
So, I did some research into what native and non-native plants already growing in the garden are good for pollinators and which native plants I should acquire from gardener friends or native plant organizations. I also learned to make a better environment for pollinators by waiting to move or shred leaves until warmer weather so as not to disturb pollinators wintering over, making sure that plants on which insects are making homes are left alone, and building up berry brambles, shrubs, and brush piles for birds and butterflies to find food and shelter in.
When I begin my class discussion about defining nature, I often start with a wooden chair or table. I point to it and ask the students, “Is this chair natural?” I pause.
They have already been introduced to the idea that humans are embodied and embedded beings, and therefore dependent on and interconnected to nature. I remind them of those ideas. Then, I ask again, “Is this chair natural?” I continue, “Humans are part of nature and humans made the chair, so would that mean the chair is natural? The chair is made from wood, a natural material. Does that make it natural? I could just as easily sit on a rock or a stump if those were here. They are natural, right?” The discussion begins.
At some point in the discussion, we pause to define what nature is according to the ecofeminists we read for class that day. Mary Mellor, in Feminism and Ecology: An Introduction, defines nature as “the non-human natural world,” (8). It is probably the simplest definition out there. I quite like its simplicity.
Returning home to Maine in April has allowed me to experience winter turning her ancient wisdom filled face towards the maiden of spring. Although the month has been chilly, and until two days ago snow covered tree stripped mountains still held a dusting of snow, all nature is celebrating renewal.
In the woods the maples are turning a deep rose red. Here in the yard all my fruit trees are waiting for May’s rain and the warmth of a waxing solar sun to set fragrant bursting blossoms as are the lilacs. Blood red cardinals sing love songs in my pine forest, whistling up the dawn. Wood frogs croak in the vernal pools, laying jellied egg masses, young foxes race through oak groves crackling leaves in their wake. The goose stands watch over his nesting mate at the pond, a loon does the same, haunting the sky with his song. Continue reading “May – A Time of Becoming by Sara Wright”
Last year I attended a bonfire on the night of the winter solstice at a friend’s house. As my companion and I walked towards the ledge where the fire had been the year before we were both astonished. Where was everybody? We stood in the dark confused. Minutes passed.
After suggesting we leave, my companion remarked with annoyance, “What the hell is going on here?” A Rhetorical question. I sure didn’t know.
Sudden hooting split the night and some dissonant musical sounds seemed to be coming from out of the bushes below us.
Following the sounds we descended the steep hill and discovered that the fire was at the river’s edge, and that a few people were already gathered there.
Unbeknownst to either of us the location had changed, and from our vantage point on the hill we couldn’t see the fire or hear any sounds. I had been looking forward to this celebratory turning, and liked the idea of sharing it with friends. Yet, now I felt uneasy.
In the precious hour before dawn I walk down to a river that no longer empties into the sea – the circle of life has been broken – the earth’s veins and arteries are hopelessly clogged by human interference (stupidity) – the birds and animals that used to be able to rely on the river waters for food and resting places can no longer do so because dams control the water flow and westerners “own” the water. This morning black stone sculptures appeared overnight because the water level has been dropped another foot. And yet, acknowledging the flowing waters in their death throws seems like an important thing to do. For now, at least, the river turns crimson, reflecting the raging beauty of a pre dawn sky, and I am soothed by water rippling quietly over round stone.
I open the rusty gate to enter the Bosque, a place of refuge, for the cottonwoods and for me. Now I am surrounded by desert scrub and graceful matriarchs arc over my head. As I traverse the well – trodden path I enter a meditative state without effort. Soon I am walking in circle after circle passing through the same trees and desert scrub hearing voices.
I’ve spent much of the past four years – since returning to the state of my birth after more than forty years’ intentional absence – trying to understand and make peace with a particular slice of southern culture that I avoided most of my adult life. Part of that process was a deep dive into my family roots which led me to also consider the caverns further below those roots. If landscape contributes to shaping our human nature, what might that mean for my family?
Here in the Missouri Ozarks, my roots extend a hundred and fifty years deep; my ancestors on both sides of my family are buried in the karst of the Ozark Plateau, and their bones have leached into the thousands of caves that honeycomb the area, mixing with the limestone and other minerals through the abundance of flowing water. I grew up being cautioned to watch out for sinkholes, often a sign that there was a cave system below.
I met a man on a rumbling train who had hooks in his hat.
A fisherman, I thought with the usual dismay – brutal images of dying fish gasping for air exploded in thin air. Memories of my grandmother who took her eight year old granddaughter fly fishing also flooded my mind (my grandmother was a professional fly fisherwoman). I caught my first fish in the brook – a six inch trout. After landing the desperate creature my grandmother said, “ now we must kill it so the fish does not suffer.” And she looked for a stone.
“Hit it over the head” she instructed handing me a rock she picked up nearby, and I did. Tears welled up. It broke my child’s heart to murder such a shimmering rainbowed creature.
When we got home that day, my grandmother praised me lavishly for my catch, promptly gutted the fish and fried it in a pan for me to eat. I forgot the anguish I had experienced, basking in my grandmother’s approval. The fish tasted delicious, and to this day I eat fish and other seafood.
As a lobsterman’s wife I learned quickly how to cook crustaceans by sticking their heads in boiling water so they would die almost instantly.
Yesterday I gave a poetry reading at a local library beginning and ending with thoughts about how Climate Change is affecting all living things. I am a naturalist who holds the radical belief that all living things are sentient. I also argue that we must not equate animal intelligence with that of humans.
Almost every poem I read was about my intimate relationship with some aspect of the natural world, for example, the changing seasons, my friendship with sagebrush lizards, steadfast trees, Sandhill cranes, beloved Black bears. Intimacy and inter –relationship are part of every experience I have with nature and by sharing these poems I hoped might draw others in to new ways of perceiving the earth and her creatures.
The whole point of my focusing on non – human species was to raise awareness that these animals and plants desperately need our help. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about how critical it is to bring animals, plants, trees, mushrooms into the picture in this age of the Anthropocene, that is, the period in which we live where a few men with power rule. Today, it is not an exaggeration to say that humans control every aspect of our fragile planet.
I repeat: Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough or perhaps almost no one was capable of listening? Maybe both. As soon as I concluded my reading one woman did actually bring up an incident involving a very difficult child who became attached to a lizard, so she at least, was on the track I hoped I had laid….
As a woman with Passamaquoddy roots when I first came to Abiquiu I was invited to participate in the six pueblo celebrations along the Rio Grande which made me feel blessed, grateful, included, and at “home.”
My own people’s lives and traditions were destroyed by colonial peoples centuries ago.
Yesterday I was invited to attend a river blessing on what I call Red Willow River a tributary of the Rio Grande by folks of Spanish and Indigenous descent who live here in Abiquiu on the mesa. These people, although local, are of mixed descent and do not follow the seasons and cycles of the year as the surrounding pueblos do. There is a heavy overlay of Spanish colonialism along with a restrictive (to me) Catholicism that sets this village apart from the pueblos.
Still, I was looking forward to this celebration
That was supposed to be led by Tewa Women United from the neighboring pueblos. It was a beautiful day, and of course we were all on “Indian Time” which means practically that ceremonies start when the time was right.
However, this blessing of the river didn’t come together at all. People milled around aimlessly. Some left. The children some of whom were dressed in regalia played for a while and eventually got hungry. Some complained they had to get back to school for a game.
If god is the wild, passionate, loud, sexual, sizzling, dancing fires of creation.
And should I ever forget my fiery, heavenly vision, the sun comes out every day to remind me.
And I ask myself, which is more miraculous? Our local star feeding earthly life?
Or me, reflecting the sun, feeling the passion, sizzling in response?
Jacob Dreams and So Do We
(inspired by Genesis 28:12)
As darkness slips into light,
with its unique melody,
As light slips into darkness,
with its mysterious possibilities,
settles softly upon the land.
Creation is oneness, but we need duality to experience sex, symphonies, hot fudge sundaes.
Creation is pure love, but it is to the passions of the human heart that we owe our earthwalk
Dawn and dusk hold open the thresholds of mystery inviting our human hearts to experience . . .
The sacred dance where one becomes two becomes three.
The sacred song where three becomes two becomes one.
Pele’s Birth Dance
Twinkling stars ignite waves of fire that explode into a tumultuous, joyful noise:
“EH YEH, EH YEH, EH YEH.”
And Mother Earth awakens.
Matter bathed in Pele’s cauldron flares up, erupting into waves of baby earth while roaring:
“EH YEH, I AM, EH YEH.”
As seeds rise from great watery oceans of fire, my heart swells, breathing air into newly forged matter and causing my breath to become song:
“I AM, EH YEH, I AM.”
that reflects flame-drenched stars,
that reflects Pele’s dance,
that reflects the passionate seed,
echoes within my belly until I glow with waves of love which burst forth to sing:
“I AM, I AM, I AM.”
And then . . .
Riding a watery wave that gushes forth new life, my newborn erupts from my body, then twinkles, then cries tumultuous joyful noise:
“EH YEH, EH YEH, WAHHHHhhhhhh.”
(Note: “Eh yeh” is God’s name in phonetic Hebrew as given to Moses in Genesis 3:14. “I am” is its traditional translation into English)
Janet Rudolph has written three books on the subject of ancient Biblical Teachings. One Gods: The Mystic Pagan’s Guide to the Bible,When Eve Was a Goddess: A Shamanic Look at the Bible, and the just recently released book,When Moses Was a Shaman. For more information visit her website at /www.mysticpagan.com/
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.
I have greatly enjoyed an odd little book I read over the summer. It is Lucy Cooke’s The Truth About Animals (Basic Books, 2018). Cooke takes us through a journey of animal behavior, chronicling the curious narratives that naturalists, philosophers, theologians, and other high-thinking professionals impose on animals to render their behaviors meaningful, moral, and relevant. Cooke shows us how tempting it has been historically for people to seek and discover confirmation of human values in all those other pairs so happily coupled on Noah’s Ark.
It has often been an important tool for feminists, as with other sets of thinkers, to make these connections as well. And, as one familiar with the classical charges that women are more inherently corporeal than their spiritual-intellectual male counterparts, and that therefore women are more animal than the more accurately “human” form that their male counterparts represent, I understand the feminist investment in nature. I appreciate that it involves a sort of ownership and redefinition of the slur; an acceptance of space and place as limited and essentially animal; an awareness of environmental sustainability; a deep sense of connection to the continuum of creaturely being that is the giant ecology of our planet.