Tuesday, March 26, 2013

tonic wild, part 3: re-membering


We need the tonic of wildness--to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of Nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and Titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander... Henry David Thoreau

In the coffee shop where I write, everything around me is inert, static. Only people move, interact and set things in motion. ‘Inexhaustible vigor’ is nowhere in sight. Nothing is ‘mysterious and unexplorable.’ Nor is there ‘life pasturing freely.’ By contrast, as Thoreau details, wildness is dynamic. Life howls, hoots, slithers, flies, grows, climbs, spawns, decays, blooms, burrows, germinates, preys and on and on.

Too much time in human made settings however causes us to fear what we ourselves didn’t fabricate. Horror films capitalize on this, tainting natural settings with a menacing hue; all that howling and slithering imbued with sinister intent. 

Too much time in humanoid settings also causes us to forget we live, move and have our being in a world other than the one we’ve constructed. We forget our lives are inexorably intertwined with wild Otherness, from bee to forest to sea. 

A pastor once described communion as re-membering; as in putting back together, reuniting people with God through ritual. Wildness reminds me I am a part of rather than apart from dynamic exuberant life all around. I remember I am adamah, of the earth, a mammal only as robust as the air, water and soil that sustain me. It is a humbling, clarifying tonic to know, deep in my bones know, my wellbeing is completely dependent on the well being of all creation. It is also an empowering tonic because the breadth and depth of my impact, good or ill, extends beyond other living creatures.

In wild places I ease off the burden of myself, the incessant chorus of needs-contrived, true, petty and fleeting-which preoccupy me. Thus freed, I encounter Otherness not through a screen or from a God box complete with childcare and relevant programming. Here is Otherness on its own terms, unfiltered, unscripted, unpackaged and certainly not advertised to appeal to my demographic.

Yes, I am ‘earnest to explore and learn all things.’ But I have a deeper hunger for mystery, for the ‘unfathomable’, for awe, for communion with Otherness unmarred by a humanoid agenda. Including my own.

I suspect we all do.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

tonic wild, part 2: otherness


At the shore, beachcombers flirt with rolling waves. Using buckets, shovels, whatever implements they can bend to their will, children build with singular urgency. In the background, tall hotels in gaudy pastels punctuate ribbons of pavement. Runners, cyclists and tourists weave through the boardwalk where we will buy ice cream later. It is a lively place, this beach; the myriad agendas of a myriad hominids are pursued.

But in front of me is the horizon. Sky and earth meet. The line they form underscores the absence of anything I am familiar with. Again, why am I here? At first I am afraid. Death comes to mind. This egoic pursuit will scar my children with motherlessness. But as I notice what is around me, I relax.

I am immersed, literally, in a place wholly, fully alive. Sky and sea stretch vast and endless. Murky turquoise currents roil and surge. Otherwise, it is quiet. But the air feels different, almost palpable with the featherweight of birdsong and kernels of weather patterns orbiting to shore. Unseen beings glide below me pursuing their own myriad agendas. I am awed by the sheer Otherness of what is around, above, before and below me. 

Who am I in the presence of such wonder? 

Monkey mind calms with this question, the soul need within us each. I am acutely aware of how fragile and vulnerable I am. But I am also acutely alive, present and peaceful. Tears sting my eyes. Here is church, temple, synagogue, the open hand of grace.