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.

Everyday rituals

Last weekend I went to the second half of an Ecopsychology two day workshop. The main presenters were Tigrilla from Damanhur and Geoff Berry (formerly Cities of Light and now The Play of Light). It was a lovely gathering of passionate individuals and the experimental activities have sparked all sorts of ideas about deepening our connection with nature and each other. One of the highlights was Geoff’s urban songlines activity, which has so much potential for re-inscribing human communities into the land.

Water rippling in the sun, Merri Creek

I particularly enjoyed hearing about the different things people do every day to connect with nature. Tigrilla mentioned that at Damanhur (an ecospiritual community in Northern Italy) every household has a greeting tree. There is a custom of presenting oneself to this tree by placing your forehead against it before you go into the house. Another woman shared a similar ritual where she spends time with a tree in front of her own home in order to leave behind the stress, worry or irritation of the day before greeting her housemates.

Someone else shared Min Mia‘s concept of carrying your ‘poopy pack’ around and collecting ‘shit’ from people, if you don’t give your ‘poopy pack’ to a tree then you are likely to throw it at someone you love. This sparked an interesting conversation about whether giving our cares and worries to the trees is akin to composting them, some felt that it necessary to finish with gratitude to avoid viewing trees as some kind of energetic dumping ground.  Ideally we wouldn’t view our ‘negative’ emotions as waste but compost, an opportunity to learn and grow. I wonder if the act of giving those energies to a tree actually involves acknowledging and embracing the feeling paralleling mindfulness exercises like DROPS (don’t resist or push, soften). Trees, like all nonhuman nature, are wonderfully free of judgement.

It was wonderfully affirming, like when I discovered the tree project, to find that so many people share my arboreal affinities.

Big shout out to Joe and Mira and the Melbourne Evolver Network for putting the weekend together!