What exactly is our relationship with Earth, its wilderness, its gardens and its green spaces?

wilderness river

Of course we all value this place in some way. I won’t call it our home, although we all live here; we can live nowhere else. To me, the idea of ownership seems inappropriate at least and inaccurate at best. This place may be closer to owning me, in fact.  And ‘home’ makes it seem so domesticated. Is that what it is? Or is it unapologetically wild and autonomous? I have decided to approach this place as I would an equal: with humility and respect for both of us. That seems to be the best moral decision I can make at this time.

Others don’t agree. They consider this place a servant in need of stewardship. They talk of ‘eco-system services’ and measure the value of this place by the benefits it provides to one species, a single leaf on the great Tree of Life – Humans. They extract the elements that serve them, but they are not producers, like plants; they are consumers. They talk in economic terms, like ‘board feet’, but the only thing they truly produce is waste, of which only a minimal amount can be absorbed and re-used. They concern themselves with ‘management’, imagining a parental responsibility for the growth and training of this place. It’s ironic to me that the child they attend is billions of years their senior. 

Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness

This place is often valued for its beauty, prized for delicate and powerful sensual elements that fill the soul and spark the imagination.  Many who praise it lift it far up on a pedestal of mysticism but decline to offer it their understanding or their presence. To them, it can become remote, surreal and alien, a romantic fantasy on an epic canvas.

Some view this place with disinterest, perturbation, or downright disgust. Standing on it just means that it’s beneath them; they will not allow themselves to be grounded. It takes a great expenditure of energy to maintain this separation, but they achieve this distance by employing every distraction and applying every veneer currently available.

Cudahy

This has been called the “Athropocene Era”, the geological epoch of Humans. We are the dominant species at the moment and the major force impacting the Earth. We’re no longer a hunter-gatherer society, and our advancing technology is always at the expense of natural resources, even if our intention is to use it for conservation efforts. For example, the ‘progress’ we have made in recycling plastic still uses tremendous energy to break down the material and still results in the production of waste and toxins. The unchecked growth of our species has effected the climate of the entire planet and threatens a mass extinction.  

It stands to reason that the only way to lessen our impact is to become less numerous, consume less, and produce less waste. We must slow down and live simpler, more sustainable lifestyles in order to stop this growth mentality that has become a global menace. Then we can begin to nurture an equal relationship to this place and its inhabitants.

schottler

Let us spend time with this place, pay a lover’s attention to its moods, its responses. Let’s be careful what we take and what we leave behind. Let’s respect this place in every detail and not dismiss the nuances of its character. Let us champion its autonomy and dignity, seeking to understand but not using that understanding for our own advancement and growth. Let’s explore to gain wisdom, not to invade. And let us celebrate our love for this place! Teach it! Demonstrate it in song, story, art and work!

Lake shore meditation

I hope we will not grow weary or discouraged in this love. There will certainly come a new age of geography yet, whether our species is included or not. In our own lifetimes, though, living a loving relationship to this place is its own reward. It is a love to fill the heart, soul, mind and body and to bless the entire world.

Essay and all photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2016. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “I Love This Place

  1. Dear Priscilla,
    We are what we are–shortsighted and afflicted with tunnel vision, but we are capable of seeing more than just what we want to see. We have the intellectual capability to look into the future, but are unwilling to make small sacrifices now in order to soften the terrible impact we will make on the world, a mess we’re leaving our children to deal with. We can do better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That last sentence is precisely the mantra that Steve returns to time and again in our conversations! If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we do better at living on Earth? This needs serious consideration.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great job with the BeZine this month, Priscilla. I appreciated you perspective in this post. It made me think that we humans are like the guests from hell–inconsiderate, making a mess, upsetting the rhythm and routine of the household, and we just won’t leave.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It often feels that way to me, too. I get very frustrated (angry) and judgmental about my own species – and then I try to re-imagine who we are more lovingly. We are a species with certain adaptations, as any other. We are not superior. We are not inferior, either. We are what we are, and we will live out our epoch to some end that I cannot predict. As an individual of that species, I have the responsibility and the opportunity to choose how I will live in response to every moment. I want to focus on paying attention to my host and the rhythm and routine of the household; I want to express my gratitude for hospitality and manage my own messes as best I can. I hope to get beyond my desire to “fix” my species because it causes so much disappointment and suffering. (My #1 enneagram gets in the way of this too often!)

      Liked by 2 people

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