Do your ways of speaking, feeling, and thinking draw you closer to nature, or set you apart from it? In this article, my colleague Mary Reynolds Thompson brings us her perspective on language that weaves us closer to the Earth. An eco-coach and facilitator of poetry therapy, Mary specializes in helping people connect more deeply to the natural world.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE WILD
In Homer’s The Odyssey, the natural landscape offers up the omens and signs that instruct humans in their endeavors. Human events and emotions are not separate from the changing moods of the earth, but shaped by them.
David Abram argues this point in Spell of the Sensuous when he writes: “Penelope’s feelings on listening to the news of her husband are described as the thawing of the high mountain snows by the warm spring winds, melting the frozen water into streams that cascades down slopes….”
Homer’s poem is embedded in the natural world, in large part because it remains a reflection of the oral tradition: language as it stood before the written word took hold. Contained by tablet and alphabet, with no poet to bring forth words on wings of breath, language was to become increasingly disembodied, uprooted from the expressive, multi-form world.
Socrates declares the split complete when he states, “You must forgive me, dear friend. I am a lover of learning, the trees and open country won’t teach me anything, whereas men in the town do.” And thus man’s wisdom was designated to the page, and the reading of nature to the few.
As a facilitator of poetry therapy, I have spent the last ten years trying to mend that split. I have seen how Earth’s archetypes, imagery, and metaphors can heal and help us when we open up to their wisdom. Nature’s metaphors provide a language that weaves things (us and nature) back together.
And we can all learn to speak the language of the wild.
All that is required is that you still your mind, quiet your breath, and open the ears of your heart. Even the rumble of traffic and the thrum of technology cannot quell the wild entirely. The wind still talks in rustle and hiss. Insects still hum. A cool blue stone is still a metaphor for something within you. And one hawk, diving between skyscrapers, can still shoot a wild arrow straight into your body, awakening the pulse of something primal and powerful within.
Attending to the many-voiced landscape, the many voices within us rise into consciousness. Just as we recognize that extinction of a species causes some part of our own essence to die out, so by listening to the land and its diverse inhabitants, we discover that the Self is comprised of many landscapes and beings. We are not separate or superior to nature, but of nature—our imaginations and souls embedded in the Earth herself.
One of the most courageous things you can do in this life is to seek out and listen deeply to nature’s voice. To actively open up to the language of the wild is to relinquish the small you for the greater you: multi-form, multi-voiced, and manifold. It is to give up control and instead be guided by a greater wisdom. It is to know that the Earth and her inhabitants hold a part in your unfolding story.
Writes the poet Mary Oliver:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Perhaps when we truly understand this, our epic journey into a new and more vibrant future will truly begin.
Mary Reynolds Thompson is an international teacher, facilitator of poetry and journal therapy, and eco-coach in the emerging field of spiritual ecology. Author of Embrace Your Inner Wild: 52 Reflection for an Eco-Centric World and Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness, she is described by Richard Louv as having “commenced what Thomas Berry called the Great Work of the 21st century: reconnecting to the rest of the natural world, for meaning. For soul.” You can find out more about Mary and her work at www.maryreynoldsthompson.com