Building Community with the Natural World

Lean times carry a built-in invitation to enhance our sense of community. That turns out to be around kids’ schools, various interest groups such as book clubs, dancing, a night of cards – a variety of activities that bring people together.

But we aren’t limited to the human neighborhood to provide different ways of experiencing and of thinking. More ancient than the oldest people still among us more successful at living on the edge, are various other life forms.

Ginny Anderson presenting at the Pagan Studies Conference

Ginny Anderson presenting at the Pagan Studies Conference.

Plants, animals, and the stone people are allies, modeling ways of being, and demonstrating amazing survival skills. Biomimicry pays attention to the wisdom of plants and animals to learn new ways to live in greater harmony with the natural world – everything from glue to heating systems have taken clues from nature.

As we take part in the changing identity of the nation and its place in the global community, we can’t afford to lose sight of the importance of nature in building community. If we lose our relationship to the land and its stories, we lose the guidance of how to live on it and with it, the guidance to care for it, and the will to protect it.

But to our great peril, many changes in modern life limit direct experience of nature. Already, countless kids have never stepped off pavement. There are many people whose only connection with nature is through the Nature Channel on TV –preferring to view it from the living room couch – where, I’ve been told, the view is better, it’s not as much work, and they can see more. . Richard Louv (1) pointed out that baby boomers may be the last generation of Americans to have an intimate relationship with the land and water.

While that’s certainly true, not only are other dimensions of the relationship lost, but human physical functions and sensory capacities are diminished through lack of use.  Thinking and creativity expand in the spaciousness of the out-of-doors.  Silence itself is no small part of the wonder: Osprey Orielle Lake (2) calls for a deeper kind of listening to the living Earth. She comments that “The Big Quiet invites us to be present with ourselves and our place… and to include the entire Earth Community, down to the smallest of plants and animals, in our conversation.”

Humans have been successful in occupying more diverse natural conditions than any other life form; in part, it’s been done by paying attention to how other species deal with the circumstances. Particularly potent communicators include mountains or high places, bodies of water, certain plants, animals, and birds, and certain stone formations. Wherever we live, the territory itself holds survival information; in addition, it offers unique opportunities to experience wonder, joy, and the experience of being more than your separate physical self.

Two upcoming series offer different approaches to expanding awareness.

Abundant Life in Frugal Times” is a day-long creative event releasing barriers to opening the heart.   This stand-alone experience, second in a four-part series, offers various ways to awaken joy, and support our life’s purpose.

A circle of six mountains surrounding San Francisco Bay forms a container for the experiences we’ll be sharing in the second series (find details at Circling San Francisco Bay .  The culture is in a profound state of flux; the transitions are leading to totally different ways of being. Each site is a source of inspiration for personal exploration, and holds the potential for transforming your relationship with the web of life.

There will be time for silence, for listening and receiving new forms of communication; there will be opportunities to observe the unsung beauty of the natural world. Story-telling, guided visualizations, singing, journaling, and ceremony will all have their places during our time together.

Related books I’ve been enjoying:

1.    Louv, Richard. The Last Child in the Woods.  (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2008)

2.    Lake, Osprey Orielle, Uprisings for the Earth. (Ashland, Or. 2010)

3.    Abrams, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. (New York, N.Y. 1996).