There can be something quite poignant and breathtaking about the hues, colours and transient light of autumn days. The burnished gold to brown and drop, that signals the ‘turning of the leaf’. These moments of precious recognition, acknowledgement and leave-taking can open up our being to something other than ourselves; the realisation that we are kin to everything.
I was reading about the Scottish-American naturalist and pioneering environmental philosopher John Muir (April 21, 1838–December 24, 1914) and was struck by a piece he wrote sharing a kind of ‘epiphany’ he had while hiking Yosemite’s Cathedral peak one summer. He was just thirty years of age at the time. He describes this profound connection with the universe as follows:
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell, and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow mountaineers. Nature as a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, becomes more and more visible the farther and higher we go; for the mountains are fountains — beginning places, however related to sources beyond mortal ken.
One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature — inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out.
It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.
More and more, in a place like this, we feel ourselves part of wild Nature, kin to everything.
Reading this poignant description in the times we are in. has the capacity to throw us off balance.
Finding our way back
How do we find our way back to a world interrelated and interconnected, whose priority is to thrive and evolve? What kind of belief systems are emerging now that reinforce and contribute to a world increasingly disconnected from nature? And what about the belief — my belief — in all that is wild?
These questions framed for our experience and our times, are not just my questions, but the questions of the writer, educator, conservationist, and activist Terry Tempest Williams. She writes:
I return to the wilderness to remember what I have forgotten, that the world can be wholesome and beautiful, that the harmony and integrity of ecosystems at peace is a mirror to what we have lost.
We are at a crossroads. We can continue on the path we have been on, in this nation that privileges profit over people and land; or we can unite as citizens with a common cause — the health and wealth of the Earth that sustains us. If we cannot commit to this kind of fundamental shift in our relationship to people and place, then democracy becomes another myth perpetuated by those in power who care only about themselves.
The time has come for acts of reverence and restraint on behalf of the Earth.
~ Terry Tempest Williams
Note: Quotation from ‘The Hour of the Land’ by Terry Tempest Williams. The John Muir quotation ‘kin to everything’ is from the book ‘John Muir: Nature Writings’.
See link to Province Justice Day Event 2019 HERE