Wild at heart

I love this article from the Huffington Post UK. It’s an elegant articulation of a number of complex ideas that seem to be coming together in the human psyche at the moment. I have noticed though, that there tends to be an othering of nature that happens as part of this narrative of reconnection. 
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I agree that it’s easier to see ourselves as part of a greater whole when we are overwhelmed by the more than human. Going to places that haven’t been obviously rearranged by human hands can be a humbling experience and that humility is crucial to the shift in consciousness that is needed. But unless we can bring that humility and that recognition of our place in the larger whole into our cities and human communities, our work will be fruitless.
 
This is a critique borne of my own frustration. The conditions of my life require me to live in the city and give me very few opportunities to ‘escape’ into the wilderness. I need to be nourished and nurtured by the more than human world as much as anyone but I can’t do it in the traditional way of ‘going bush.’ I am slowly developing practices for myself that help me ground my sense of connection in the places where I live, work and play. Perhaps the judge sits in my own heart but I feel these practices are overlooked or undervalued by my deep ecology friends and by the broader narrative of ‘nature connection.’ As though they are merely stop gap measures until I can get out into the ‘real’ wildness again.
 
If we are truly to see ourselves as part of nature rather than dominating it we need to radically rethink the dichotomy that says ‘nature’ is in our national parks and not in our cities. We need to take our hearts, awakened to wildness and use them to see the land where we live. Our great teachers in this could well be our children, the young ones haven’t yet learned to pay more attention to ‘human’ objects over non-human ones. Those of us who don’t have children may have memories of the way we used to play, the trees and flowers that drew our attention. The things that fired our imaginations and filled our hearts with joy. As Mary Oliver so eloquently put it we need to “Let the soft animal of [our] body love what it loves” and we need to do it wherever we are. 
 
The day after my walk along Back Creek, a gathering entitled “Rewilding the Urban Heart” was advertised on Facebook – to say that I am excited would be a massive understatement.

Remembering Back Creek

Yesterday a friend and I walked the length of Back Creek for the first time. Our conversation meandered with our feet and the path of the creek. There are traces of stories all along the length of it. At the time it seemed mundane and ordinary but now in reflection moments leap out.

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The meeting of two waters is always sacred, so it is with the mouth of Back Creek. There is even a circle of trees there, waiting patiently to hold space for us. A little further on the creek passes over rock. Striations mark the passage of millenia and show that the rock now lies perpendicular to its origins. I stopped for some time contemplating it and hardly believing my eyes for the creek has cut a channel through the rock almost half a metre deep. This then is an ancient path, perhaps the oldest of the creek’s modern length.

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The story of colonisation is writ large, the creek subjugated and sent through concrete tunnels. For much of the length there is park to remember the creek bed that was and manage the inevitable flooding. In other places we were forced to search the curve of the land for traces of it. It wasn’t hard to see, a dip at the bottom of a hill and what a beautiful way to look at the suburbs. We laughed at the houses, built in the low point, no doubt the rains bring regular floods. What foolishness! Isn’t that colonisation all over? Write our will on the land as if it were an empty page and live in houses that flood.

I am tempted to get chalk and draw it back in, to show people what the land is saying.

Other places had other stories to tell, stories of hope, renewal and care. At the end of South Surrey Park it looks as though the creek has been reclaimed, reopened to sun and sky, lovingly surrounded with indigenous plants. That whole park and several other sections of the creek have been similarly tended with care and an eye to a brighter future. There are still places where you can stand and lose all the roaring, grating noise of modern life. I don’t know whether it is my ears or my heart that are becoming attuned but I am finding more and more of these places – urban oases of wildness and peace.

The source of the creek is mystifying, lost in a jumble of houses not even a path to show where it might have been. The land there is like a bowl, so I suppose it all collects water that feeds into the creek. There is a little park where I imagine the head of the creek might have been. An expanse of grass, a couple of park benches and a curious bluestone circle. We both wondered how it came to be there, the park and the circle seem like a fitting monument to the birthplace of a creek. I sang to it, a river song, to let it know I remember and perhaps to help it remember itself.

This was the first time I have walked the creek but it certainly won’t be the last. In responding to the creek I have accepted a responsibility and I want to honour that, for the creek and for myself.

Aspen

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My heart has melted into the humus
Become one with worms, beetles and flies
One with sticks, leaves and soil.

My blood is sap, rising in straight white trunks,
Opening into green, seekers of light,
Shimmering against the blue,
Shivering with the wind’s caress.

I feel my sisters, standing strong around me,
A sacred communion of souls
Many and one, united beneath the Earth.

And I, nestled in the chalice of their regard,
Throwing wide the doors of my heart
Am lost and found among their whispered sighs.

Open letter to Gary Hirsch

This is me with my new piece of art at Gary's 'Cocreation Lab.'

This is me with my new piece of art at Gary’s ‘Cocreation Lab.’

Dear Gary,

I loved your world domination summit workshop. I’ve been reading the book you gave us (Everything’s an offer) and I think it was very wise to give us the book with your art. For me it has been something of an instruction manual.

The piece of art I picked out on the day was not my first choice. I couldn’t see how it related to the kinds of things I want to write about. As a poet my inspiration has always come from being present to the deepest parts of myself. I couldn’t quite see how to bring that to your drawing. But I read the book and I was so impressed by your generosity that I wanted to rise to the challenge. You embody the kind of world I want to live in so I am very motivated to accept your offer.

Last night a friend stood me up for dinner so I read some more of the book, and turned my attention to your drawing. It still didn’t speak to me but I figured the least I could do was colour it in. I like flowers so I started with them. He seemed like a nerdy guy so I went on and gave him a brown cardigan. Then it started to feel like a routine, I could see where it was heading. I wanted to mix it up and I didn’t have a pink pencil for his skin, so I made him green and that’s when the magic happened.

A new beginning, Gary's picture coloured in and a story snippet.

A new beginning, Gary’s picture coloured in and a story snippet.

A green man gives rise to a whole lot of questions. By the time I finished colouring I had some words, a snippet of story. I wrote what I had across the top of the page and tweeted it. I wanted you to know straight away that I was on board. What’s more the story that emerged is entirely connected to the issues and themes that interest me but in an entirely unexpected way.

I feel like I’ve learned a heap of things from this process:

  • That letting go can sometimes return you to yourself from a new direction.
  • That you don’t have to know what the outcome will be and you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to accept the offer as best you can in that moment. I felt like sending you a colourful version of your drawing would have been a lame response to the task but I had to do something and that was all I could see.
  • That stepping into the unknown is possible, you don’t have to feel inspired to be engaged.

Thank you again for your generosity, I also used your three favourites activity at work, it went down a treat.

Yours sincerely,
Kiri
Melbourne, Australia

Note: for more details on the workshop go read Gary’s blog post.