He had many strange sights to keep him cheerful or to make him sad. I asked him had he ever seen the faeries, and got the reply, ‘Am I not annoyed with them?’ I asked too if he had ever seen the banshee. ‘I have seen it,’ he said, ‘down there by the water, batting the river with its hands.’
~ W. B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore
We’re all — trees, humans, insects, birds, bacteria — pluralities. Life is embodied network. These living networks are not places of omnibenevolent Oneness. Instead, they are where ecological and evolutionary tensions between cooperation and conflict are negotiated and resolved. These struggles often result not in the evolution of stronger, more disconnected selves but in the dissolution of the self into relationship.
Because life is network, there is no “nature” or “environment,” separate and apart from humans. We are part of the community of life, composed of relationships with “others,” so the human/nature duality that lives near the heart of many philosophies is, from a biological perspective, illusory. We are not, in the words of the folk hymn, wayfaring strangers traveling through this world.
Nor are we the estranged creatures of Wordsworth’s lyrical ballads, fallen out of Nature into a “stagnant pool” of artifice where we misshape “the beauteous forms of things.” Our bodies and minds, our “Science and Art,” are as natural and wild as they ever were.
We cannot step outside life’s songs. This music made us; it is our nature.
—David George Haskell
Let’s take a walk. You can show me some of your memories and I’ll show you some of mine.
~ Adam Berlin, Number of Missing
Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?
Well, there is time left —
fields everywhere invite you into them.
And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?
~ Mary Oliver, excerpted from Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?, West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems
There is a long time in me between knowing and telling.
~ Grace Paley
The journey from the heart to the throat to the mouth is a long one.
~ Mirabelle D’Cunha
It’s not that I don’t appreciate summer: I do. I love it deeply, from the first rich flush of hawthorn blossoms to the last fading mauves of August heather. I love the green and the growing, the treasures of the hedgerows, and the always astonishing abundance of the land which surrounds me. It’s just that I love autumn and winter more. Something opens up in me then – something soft and deep and glowing – which is far too shy to expose itself to the inexhaustible light of summer.
~ Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday
The voice of compassion is not absorbed with itself. It is not a voice intent on its own satisfaction or affirmation; rather it is a voice imbued with understanding, forgiveness and healing. This voice dwells somewhere in every human heart. Ultimately it is the voice of the soul. Part of the joy in developing a spiritual life is the discovery of this beautiful gift that you perhaps never even suspected you had. When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination, you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life. It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul.
~ John O’Donohue, Beauty: Rediscovering the true source of compassion, serenity, and hope
In reality there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other than human. In this community every being has its own role to fulfill, its own dignity, its inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice. Every being declares itself to the entire universe. Every being enters into communion with other beings. This capacity for relatedness, for presence to other beings, for spontaneity in action, is a capacity possessed by every mode of being throughout the entire universe.
~ Thomas Berry
Attention is the doorway to gratitude, the doorway to wonder, the doorway to reciprocity.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer