Wendell Berry takes my breath away sometimes. In the passage below, he speaks of hope and imagination. It is from an interview he did with Erik Reece for Garden and Gun in 2011:
The barbecue is delicious, the company fine, the weather perfect. All of this seems to inspire Wendell to reveal his plans to found another subversive cabal: the Society for the Preservation of Tangibility. The tangible—that which has actual form and substance. In a culture of avatars, electronic friends, and financial “products” that have no basis in reality, such a fundamentally human society sounds attractive indeed.
We all immediately ask if we can join. “Anyone can join,” Wendell replies. “There are no dues, no meetings, no fund drives, no newsletter.” There is only a state of mind, a desire to preserve what’s authentic, what holds substance, what aspires to the whole.
The possibility that a broken world can be made whole seems to be what calls Wendell down to his riverside desk every day. “A man cannot despair,” he once wrote, “if he can imagine a better life, and if he can enact something of its possibility.” To imagine—it is perhaps the most powerful moral force we possess because it maps a future that is worth finding. It has been Wendell’s life’s work.
Every now and then a theme bubbles up from my thoughts out on the trail. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the shared agency we have with nature. About how once we enter the forest, we’re experiencing life on mother nature’s terms.
Spiders have woven webs across the trail, not to make a sticky mess for me, but because that’s where they live and what they do. Herons are out on the lake fishing for their lunch–not posing for pictures. Our experiences in the natural world are necessarily passive, if we’re to respect the sovereignty of other species and their homes.
I hiked a trail recently looking for a particular tree, a trail marker tree, but along the way I allowed myself to see and discover other interesting things happening. I spent more time than I intended, but the hike refreshed me and in the end I was full.
David Abrams writes about our embodied experiences in the natural world in his book, The Spell of the Sensuous:
This wild expanse has its own timing, its rhythms of dawning and dusk, its seasons of gestation and bud and blossom. It is here, and not in linear history, that the ravens reside.
Are you craving a slow afternoon with nature? Cyndy Wolfe and I are planning a Nia and Nature Journaling event on OCTOBER 4TH. We’d love for you to join us out at Timberlake Earth Sanctuary to dance, make a nature journal, and spend solo time with nature. (Click on the image for a larger view.)
I think I’m in line with what we’ve known all along about child development, and science is continuing to back the idea up with research. And the latest? Here’s an article with new research showing yet another advantage to outdoor activities: The Sun Is the Best Optometrist . The natural world is a healthy place to be, and our culture needs to head back outside.
In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv shows the critical need for children to spend time outside. It’s a classic, if you haven’t read it you should consider picking up a copy. So that covers the why to go outside. But how? What about children growing up in urban areas?
Access to nature is important in designing areas for children to play and for families deciding where to live. Cities across America are developing an awareness of the need for parks, and there is a program in the works to help pediatricians encourage families to spend time outside by matching them up with local parks that will meet their needs. According to this Washington Post article, the National Park Service is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics on this initiative.
Another sign of the growing enlightenment: the state of Maryland is now requiring high school students to develop environmental literacy. A good idea, in theory, but I’m curious to see how it will be implemented. Textbooks? Tests? Classroom time? (Maybe we should start at birth?)
It’s a wonderful thing, environmental literacy. But I think that in order to preserve this planet, we need to get to know it on a more personal level.