In many cultures, humans live indoors and are removed from the visceral experience of nature and have fallen out of love with the earth; however, the earth hasn’t fallen out of love with humans. We know we need the earth if only for the most basic reason, food. Do we know that the earth needs us? In “Webs of Power,” Starhawk writes:
“…nature wants to talk to us. Far from being better off without us, nature would be incomplete without human eyes admiring her and human voices singing praise, human hands tending, pruning, and gathering, human bellies filled with her bounty.”
We may need to relearn how to be in relationship with nature. Where to begin? For a start, with patience and curiosity. Step outside and observe.
To simplify, let’s imagine there are two paths to building a relationship with nature. The scientific or left-brained path means we identify plants, birds and other elements of nature. There is also the sensory, perceptual or right-brained path. This does not mean recreation in nature such as hiking or fishing, but more of a slowing down to appreciate nature through the senses.
I have been a backyard birder for years striving to identify species and learn about their behavior. Recently, I read Jon Young’s book “What the Robin Knows” and learned about the “baseline.” With this new knowledge, I was thrilled to notice a distinct change in the backyard chatter moments before a hawk zipped past me to attack a perched songbird. That I knew something was happening before the attack allowed me to feel very connected to my local community of birds.
Practicing more of a sensory path has opened me to appreciate a reciprocal relationship with the land and wildlife. I often focus on sound, scents, shadows and light, and nature feels different to me, more alive and sensate, not only something to be studied. This way of relating to nature feels more personal, and I now wonder how nature feels about me. This really is like a love relationship!
Here is a simple exercise that will invite a more right-brained sensory relationship. One way to heighten awareness and activate the senses is to remove one. Close your eyes and listen. Just listen. Birds, wind, rustling grasses, all take on a special significance when listened to so deliberately. Or focus on what you see. Shadows, light, and flight patterns that happen without labeling offers a much different experience.
Just step outside and observe. You may experience requited Earth love!