I have an intimate relationship with nature that I have developed over the years, and that I believe began when I was very young. I actually grew up in a city, and as a little girl, my memories are of hop scotch, and car horns, and alley ways. There was concrete all around and very little access to nature. Unfortunately, the blades of grass that sprouted up through the cracks in the sidewalk were not really substantial enough to acquaint me with nature’s true wonder. So, I really had no idea.
Thankfully, my grandmother lived out in the country and I have fond memories of taking trips to her house. She was a magical kind of woman. She believed in things, she was gentle and peaceful, and she was a lover of nature. She understood it very well, its gentle loving energy, and she knew first and foremost that developing a relationship with nature requires respect before all else. I have learned all of this as well, and am still learning.
A brief note about having respect for nature, before I continue. When I say “respect,” I’m not talking about a person’s actions in terms of how we treat nature, protect it, and care for it. It goes without saying that our treatment towards nature should be gentle and un-harmful, always. You don’t have to be a wise old woman to know that it’s not cool to destroy the Earth. When I say “respect” in this context, I am talking more about your view of nature and the thoughts that you think about nature, when you are surrounded by it. You must be open, and curious, and maybe even a little frightened. It’s good to be a bit frightened in nature. That means that you are aware of its power and you are aware of your insignificance. It means that you know that you don’t know everything, and you are entering a world of ancient wisdom that you might never understand. That’s what I mean when I say respect for nature.
I have two memories of my early experiences with the wonders of nature, that have stayed with me over the years. One is a memory of my grandmother’s compost pile.
Not the wondrous topic that you were expecting?
Composting is actually an insanely wonder-filled and magical process, even if you don’t believe in magic. All I remember is following her out of her house, unaware of why we were carrying orange peels, walking down the back hill of her lawn, and finally stopping at a strange makeshift container. We dropped the orange peels into the container and I had no idea what was going on or why we were doing such a thing. I think she tried to explain it to me, but I was completely lost. However, I do remember that when she started turning over all of the material in that container, what was buried underneath was the blackest, richest, most beautiful looking dirt I had ever seen. So, a container filled with orange peels and newspapers, over time, MAKES this beautiful black stuff?! I was amazed. I’m still amazed. That’s pure magic to me. Someday, when the time and place is right, I WILL have a compost pile. Patience, goddess.
Image borrowed from Gardening Know How
My second memory (which is more like a compilation of multiple memories compressed into one hazy memory) is of my grandmother and I walking her dog in the woods behind her house. There was a beautiful path created that was perfect for us to just wander and explore. And I remember I had seen a fantasy-inspiring little plant on our walk one day. At that age (I was about 8), I was always looking for things to believe in. Children have much less of an ego than adults do, and that voice inside of our heads that tells us not to believe in anything good and hopeful, is much quieter when we are young. So, I was very open and easily inspired. This little plant was a jack in the pulpit, and I can still remember how it felt to see it for the first time.
Image borrowed from © Hilton Pond Center
It actually looks like some little person could be living inside of there, doesn’t it? As an 8-year-old little girl, I was craving a vision of a fairy hiding inside this little botanical. It almost hurt, that feeling of wanting something so badly.
Those brief experiences ignited within me a feeling of yearning for something more, something that I could never exactly see, but something that felt loving and mysterious and powerful. I still don’t know what that something is, and it’s not necessary for me to even understand or define anything. But whenever I walk into the woods, and only when I walk into the woods, do I feel that feeling. It feels like hope, and possibility, and love. It feels like openness. And it gives me a sense of okay-ness with everything. I’m always transformed after a walk in the woods, no matter how brief or seemingly insignificant.
This is a shorter little memoir kind of a post I know, but I’m hoping it inspires many of you goddesses to find this source of hope and possibility within your own lives. You can try to look for it in things, or people, or books, or whatever, but I don’t think you will find it. There is something that happens when you immerse yourself in nature, that is incomparable to anything else. I have not found any other way to tap into this feeling, other than by taking myself out of the modern world, and into the wild. And you don’t need to be in a remote location in order to be immersed. But you do need to be away from modern energies and technologies, and surrounded by un-human sounds and visions. Whichever way you turn, all 360 degrees, all you should see is natural life around you.
Once you are there, you don’t need to do anything. Just move through the space and let yourself be there. Respect it all and don’t try to understand it. You might not feel anything in the moment and you might think to yourself, “Hey, what is she talking about, I don’t feel any magic. I’m hot and sticky and there are bugs flying in my face!?” That’s okay though. The bugs flying in your face are just saying hello. It’s a good practice in reverence. Our daily lives do not give us many opportunities to feel or express reverence. But I think we need to feel this feeling more often. It makes us better people. If you have any desire to be any kind of a goddess whatsoever, this is a big part of it.
Try it and see.
Libby in the woods…
Photography by © Libby Saylor
Featured photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash