While the human animal’s obsessed with how to stretch and bend her to create our own realities, Nature reminds us of one eternal reality, that everything is connected. Everything. That what we might fear in her we actually fear in ourselves. And that what we do to her we do to ourselves and others.
What a joy our place in her should be, a position that, miraculously, both humbles us when we’re arrogant and ennobles us when we’re feeling unimportant.
BODY AND SOUL
Nature’s voice surrounds us, fills us, every day. She speaks to our minds, showing us immutable truths of how things always grow and move and interact. At the same time, she refreshes those ancient instincts that have always advised us on how to apply those truths. She tries as she can to show us both the portals and the boundaries of our intimacy.
Only if we love her back will we
care enough to protect her as if
she were our own flesh and blood.
Sometimes the message is for our bodies, calling us to work with her, run with her, bask in her. She fills us with contentment, with exhilaration, and then reminds us that, while she may seem indefatigable, we are not.
Finally, she speaks to our hearts and our spirits, reminding us of our deep belonging to her. It is an unconditional love, that of the tenderest of gods, yet utterly indifferent to the values we humans have devised for ourselves—and so often fail to exemplify.
WHAT TO SAY BACK
Don’t think for a moment that what Nature has to say to us has to be a monologue. In fact, there are many ways to hold up our end of the conversation. Perhaps the most obvious is through sound.
If we spot a beautiful bird—a cardinal, let’s say—we obviously can’t look like a cardinal; we can’t feel or taste or smell like one either. But we can sound like one. I do it all the time (and the cardinal nearly always comes closer).
When Nature calls us to our child side, we might answer her with playful cries and joyous laughter. Or we can welcome her accompaniment as we shuffle leaves, crunch acorns or splash water.
We can shout or clap our hands and listen as desert ignores, forest ponders or canyon mimics. Or we can offer Nature the one gift we have that might nearly rival birdsong and wolf call—our own voices in song.
You know it's not really a
sound, but still you hear it.
THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE
Can we converse with Nature through silence? Have you ever experienced true, total silence? I’ve done so only a few times in my life. It leaves an impression. At first your brain doesn’t quite know what to do without the foundation of at least some ambient sound.
It’s kind of like being in total darkness. It makes you dizzy. You can almost feel your ears reaching out, expanding, cupping to detect something, anything, to get a bearing on.
Then, like the way we try to fill the awkward lull in a conversation with an “um-m-m” or an “ah-h-h-h,” Nature comes up with her own space filler, a sort of dull roar. You know it's not really a sound, but still you hear it.
How curious that, while total silence may disorient, near-silence—especially that infused with Nature’s whispers of wind through trees, water over rocks, the jabber and scurry of life—is where, more than any place, you will hear the sound of your own spirit, that reassuring voice that reminds you of your unique part in the oneness of everything.
This is an era in which too many of us humans seem to be getting it backwards in our attitude toward Nature. We've come to fear her more than we love her. We keep our young ones indoors where we can keep an eye on them. We discourage them from the kinds of adventures that defined our own childhood, but which we now somehow believe are too risky.
In her voice are the echoes of everything
that ever lived...or ever will live.
If we truly listen, we know that the truth is a different matter. In fact it is Nature that should fear us. Once again, she’s telling us—and we should be listening—how we hurt her through our arrogance, our greed, our short-sightedness and, perhaps most tragically, through those poorly-informed fears.
Nature is as benevolent as she has ever been. And, in this era of virtual experiences and connections, her presence in our daily lives is needed more than ever. Depriving our children of her nurture, her teachings, her healing spirit, is hurting them—and us—in ways we are only now coming to document, and to a degree that far, far outweighs any actual risks.
FLESH AND BLOOD
So keep your ears peeled for Nature’s voice. It’s there, not just in the forest, but in the heart of the city. You can hear it in creatures’ voices, including our own. It comes from growth and movement—the raspy rattle of tree branches rubbing shoulders in the wind; water’s cheery chortle as it charms its way over and around hard rock. Some folks even hear the trees, the clouds, the land.
And only if we listen—truly listen with ears, hearts and souls open—will we learn about Nature and our belonging in her. For in her voice are the echoes of everything that ever lived...or ever will live. Then, only when we know and trust that eternal bond, will we be able to reciprocate her love. Only then will we know enough to protect her as if she were, indeed, our own flesh and blood.