Friday, February 16, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Collaborating with the Wild: Portals in Nature

Entering portals in nature. Sheri Tepper, in her science fiction novel, Grass, uses the ordinary plant, grass, as the central image, the portal into a mystical, real, thrilling and terrifying world. All kinds of grasses cover the earth like a sea-- currents waving and undulating seductively on the surface, hiding an underworld teeming with beings. Are they predators, victims, the hunted, or the hunters?

Millions of square miles of it; numberless wind-whipped tsunamis of grass, a thousand sun-lulled caribbeans of grass, a hundred rippling oceans, every ripple a gleam of scarlet or amber, emerald or turquoise, multicolored as rainbows, the colors shivering over the prairies in stripes and blotches, the grasses--some high, some low, some feathered, some straight--making their own geography as they grow. There are grass hills where the great plumes tower in masses the height of ten tall men; grass valleys where the turf is like moss, soft under the feet..."

The reader and the writer move through the portal of grass into a world of compelling, frightening, poignant relationships between humans, unfamiliar beings-- Peepers, Hippae, Hounds, Foxen-- and a plague. Humans and the environment.

Grass, like all books are, is a portal into other worlds. With each page we turn we move deeper and deeper into a fantastic landscape that provokes a visceral response. When we close the book, the green stuff that grows as lawns and on hillsides is no longer a benign prettiness, but a numinous pulsing sentient entity. We have been changed by moving through the portal.

Interacting with Nature can be like reading the novel. A complex experience, different for different people. Delicious, wonderful, terrifying, gross, soothing, provocative.

I invite you to take a chance. Walk into Nature. It's wild. In our daily material life, collaborating with Nature, like reading, is a pathway into a different world. But unlike reading a novel, collaborating with the wild is opening to the world of spirits. Moving into this world takes focus and intent. Every element in Nature is a potential portal into the world of spirits. Do we want to pass through a portal, deep into the wild, into Nature? It's a serious and thrilling step. It's worth thinking about.

If we want to collaborate with Nature, we've got to have the intent to communicate, and the focus to do it. We've got to talk. Talk with some element, force, being of Nature. Wild beings. Images of the Divine.

Communing with Nature isn't a new idea. Rather, it's newly out of fashion. Communing with the elements of nature is ancient and modern (shamans world wide for tens of thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples all over the world, American Transcendentalists).

So, how does one talk with spirits of Nature? We do it all the time. We can talk silently or we can speak out loud. Let's take a flower, for example. Stopping to look at a flower. We notice it. We admire it. We appreciate its scent, the form of the leaves, the colors, the textures. We may even talk to it. "You smell so sweet." If we're with someone we might invite them to appreciate it. "Wow, smell this!" We're communing, talking with that flower. This is a way in. A beginning. Greeting the portal.

If we're serious about going further, really wanting to know the flower, we pursue that intent, and go deeper. Just as when we want to get to know a person, it means spending time with that being, talking and listening. It requires a committment.

Talking is often easier than listening. Listening is complex. What is the language of wild beings, anyway? Can we understand it? Often we need to enter an altered state of consciousness in order to hear what Nature has to say. Why? Because we're listening to a spirit. The spirit of the flower. We need to enter their world in order to have a two-way conversation. Like picking up the telephone. Both parties need to be on the phone. Or, Instant Messaging, if we want to be connected at the same time. Or, in telepathic communications, often people open themselves at a synchronized time to transmit and receive, putting themselves in an altered state in which they share intent and focus. It's an agreement and wish to collaborate.

Collaborating with a spirit of the wild is like collaborating with a person in some ways. Getting to know them is important. Getting to know them gives us information about whether or not it's a good match. And, the being we want to work with must agree to work with us. Just as in collaborating with a person in the material world, we wouldn't just say, "I choose you," and expect that person to agree. That would be rude and presumptuous. It's the same in Nature.

Entering into the wild is thrilling. Many people have had the experience of snorkling. Picture being under water next to a reef, revelling in the brightly colored schools of fish surrounding you. Suddenly a black eel slips out from a reef in front of your face. In a flash of thrill and fear you realize that you are in their world. A wild different world. Or, when you're in the woods and you come upon a bear, or when the earth and everything around you is shaking out of control in an earthquake, you know you are in the world of Nature, a wild place.

Entering the wild, entering portals in Nature is mind expanding. Communicating and learning from wild beings, spirits of Nature, is an experience that can change you forever. If you choose to proceed, it may seem difficult at first. Listening to and hearing from the spirits of Nature is easier for some people than others. Be encouraged. Keep trying. They appreciate our efforts. Intent and focus are crucial for every kind of entry and collaboration with the wild.

c Alesia Kunz