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" Friendship is a sheltering tree "

Coleridge

Crazy about Nature

March 29th, 2008

I guess I am still enrolled in the Lutheran Church at home, but there is no one church or creed with which I fully agree. For one thing, I am crazy about Nature, and almost worship it, but isn’t Nature the direct work of God?”

Olaus Murie 192

 Olaus Murie

Olaus Murie (1889 – 1963) was an environmentalist imbued with a natural spirituality. He opposed the building of monuments in places of great natural beauty. An article on him describes how ‘Murie’s philosophy and actions fit well into such Taoist principles as noninterference, nonaction, the importance— even the beauty—of death, the value of intuitive knowledge, and the sacredness of cycles.’ James M.Glover, Olaus Murie’s Spiritual Connection with Wilderness.

13 Responses to “Crazy about Nature”

  1. Aren’t the two interchangeable : God is Nature, Nature is God? To me it seems they are inseparable, not one the cause of the other.

  2. Speaking of going beyond dualism, the work of people like Murie, helps us all to go beyond that distorted notion that we are creatures only capable of existing and thriving in our own constructed ‘civilisation’. That imposed split between wilderness and civilisation has left us all exiled. When Murie wrote of his camping experience listening to the wolves sing, it struck me how much their voices must have rung out like a cry from some deep place within, a place that I have come to believe exists in all of us: that memory of wilderness as home, not as dangerous ‘other’. When we view a place as home, we want to protect it, we have an emotional investment in it and understand its impact on our own well-being and survival. That emotional connection with, and investment in, nature is really needed now more than ever. Perhaps we all need to lie out beneath the stars and hear the wolves sing – a jolt to the soul, one that might remind us just exactly what we stand to lose, but also what we might regain.

  3. Beautifully said Maria. I thought I’d paste in here the story your mention about the wolves from Murie’s ‘A Field Guide to Animal Tracking’:

    One night four of us,
    including our year-old baby,
    were encamped on a gravel
    bar of the Porcupine River, in
    northeastern Alaska. It was
    clear September weather, and
    we slept that night in the
    open without a tent. At dawn
    we were awakened by a voice
    across the river. Soon we
    realized we were being
    serenaded by two wolves, one
    upstream, the other below our
    camp. First one, then the
    other, raised its muzzle and
    howled. Apparently we were
    intruding on their home
    ground. At any rate, we lay
    there in the crisp autumn
    morning, comfortable in our
    sleeping bags, and listened to
    this song of the Arctic
    wilderness with a feeling of
    awe. (Murie 1954, p. 93)

  4. Thanks for posting this as I had not heard of Murie so will research him further – and I thought that Maria’s comment was also beautifully put. I think this is why there is no sleep like the ‘camp sleep’ – being close to the Earth and in tune with her, is so natural for us that we fall instinctively into her rhythms. The extract you posted above put me in mind of one of my favourite poems (which formed a large part of my Bardic review):

    Sleeping in the Forest

    I thought the earth remembered me,
    she took me back so tenderly,
    arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
    full of lichens and seeds.
    I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
    nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
    but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
    among the branches of the perfect trees.
    All night I heard the small kingdoms
    breathing around me, the insects,
    and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
    All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
    grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
    I had vanished at least a dozen times
    into something better.

    from Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver

  5. Gorgeous poem! I love Mary Oliver’s work!
    Yes sleeping on the earth makes you feel completely different. I used to think it was partly the different kind of bedding, but last Autumn during the meteor showers we took a whole mattress and ‘normal’ bedding out into the garden and slept in it and it was wonderful.

  6. natnemeton, thank you for posting the poem – it is so beautiful. If I remember rightly, there is a wonderful poem of Mary Oliver’s used in the OBOD course material (Philip might be able to help me out here). I really must look into her more. Thanks.

  7. Of course – I remember now – I think it was Wild Geese – so I have OBOD to thank for introducing me to MO! Thank you.

  8. I have greatly enjoyed reading everyone’s responses on this. Just yesterday my son, who, among other things, is a wilderness instructor, showed me a new book called LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS … Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. Can you imagine that the children of today suffer from Nature-Deficit Disorder. !!!!
    The begining of the book is a writing by Walt Whitman
    “There was a child went forth every day,
    And the first object he looked upon, that object he became, and that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
    The early lilacs became part of this child,
    And the grass and white and red morning glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
    And the third month lambs and the sow’s pink-faint litter,#and the mare’s foal and the cow’s calf……. W Whitman

    then a quote from a modern child,
    “I like to play indoors ’cause thats where all the electrical outlets are”
    — a 4th grader in SanDiego
    The Scientific American says that “Parents,educators,therapists and city officials can benefit from taking seriously Louv’s call for a ‘nature-child reunion’ ”

    Its amazing that in one generation, with computers, Tv and whatnot, what we took for granted in a reationship with nature is now alien to modern children! It has made me do some deep thinking!

  9. Thank you both, Alice and Philip, for the links. The quote from Whitman is wonderful. I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been without the woods and downs – I feel so blessed to have been exposed to these wonderful places from very early on, for having parents that loved being out amongst nature. I have such vivid memories of contact with nature as a kid and as Whitman suggests, these have helped to shape my entire life. I feel so sad that children might not be receiving this vital imput. There are some encouraging signs though, as the links show. A dear friend of mine works for Friends of the Earth. She goes into schools in Portsmouth and talks about the importance (and magic!) of composting. The children also have the opportunity to get involved with the Friends of the Earth allotment, planting and growing stuff, getting their fingers in the soil and making connections between their food and the environment. Portsmouth has very few green spaces and is an extremely densely populated city and so these projects are so important. Kids respond when given the opportunity. Anything that helps them connect is so valuable, particularly now – a more sustainable and earth-loving future is dependent on them feeling that crucial sense of emotional investment in and identification with nature.

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