Monday, January 18, 2010

Lessons from Nature for 2010

by Sarah Anne Edwards

The New Year has begun with dire predictions for the future and over half the country believing we’re in a fix that won’t be ending soon. As an ecopsychologist my first thought in contemplating the coming year is to turn to nature and explore there what insights and wisdom might be found there for how we can respond personally in our current circumstances. Having survived and thrived over eons, nature seems to have mastered weathering whatever might come.

Reflecting on my past ten years living so close to nature’s ways in the forest, a number of lessons for the New Year popped quickly to mind:

1. Live with eyes wide. One of the noteworthy characteristics of the many creatures who share this forest is that they are highly alert, ever vigilant. They seem to excel at paying close attention to their present circumstances, intently aware that the events of the moment hold crucial information about welcomed opportunities as well as concerns to be avoided. Replacing any tendency to rely the automatic pilot of past assumptions with an attitude of vigilance could serve us equally well.

2. Live with windows open. Even with our eyes open we won’t see much if we don’t let the world around us in. For example, this summer we waited patiently for our crop of cherries to ripen. Late one afternoon it appeared the time to pick them was near, but being it was late in the day, we decided to wait until morning. Well, by morning, only four of 100’s of plump ripe cherries remained. Of course. The birds live in our yard full-time. We don’t. We missed the moment and learned, once again, that unless we want to settle for leftovers we need to keep our windows to the world open to see what’s going on. That also means being willing to see it as it is, not how it would be most convenient to us.

3. Be out and about. Even with eyes wide and windows open we won’t see everything we need if we don’t venture out into the world. I watch the ducks on the pond in the meadow below our house everyday and without fail they’re always there. There are plenty of bushes and shoreline nooks and crannies where they could tuck themselves away, but they don’t do that. They’re on the pond or waddling along the shore, out where the action is. I know we’re all busy keeping our nose to the grindstone, but not only is being out where the action where we’ll see find new opportunities popping up, it’s also enlivening and energizing even for the weary.

4. The peanuts aren’t always there. As we head out and about we best not depend only on our old familiar haunts. This thought occurred to me while tossing peanuts out on our deck for the birds this morning. It’s something we do often, especially in the winter. But there was nary a bird in sight when I opened the screen door ... not until the peanuts clunked to the floor. As regular as we are at this, the birds seem to know that some days there won’t be peanuts on our deck. So they don’t hang around waiting for us to show up. When we’re there, they’re Johnny on the spot, when we’re not, well, I’m not sure where they are, but obviously they have other places to go. They’re hungry, so they’ll be where to food is. And that’s where we need to be, so to speak. We need to be where we’re needed, doing what’s needed when it’s needed, and that won’t always be the place we’re most accustomed to.

5. Don’t get attached along a rapidly moving stream. At a casual glace, everything in this forest may look pretty much the same from day to day, but actually, just like the rest of life, it’s always changing. Some days it’s cold and windy. Some days it’s warm and still. And every other combination of other possible characteristics. Even non-living things don’t remain the same; the environment changes them too in time. All of nature is forever going with the flow, so to speak, without questioning if it’s where they want to go. It’s where they’re going. We as humans have a tendency to hang on when what we need to do is to let go so we can get where life is taking us. It’s actually a lot easier that way.

6. Find a save place to rest. Every living thing here is in its own way both prey and predator. We all need to eat, so I often wondered how to our fellow creatures find a place that’s safe enough to rest. Quite by accident I’ve discovered a few of the ingenious ways they do that. Looking up, up, up to the top of one of the tallest trees in our yard one day I spotted a huge clump of brush in the branches. For some time a pondered what that clump was. Turns out it’s a nest of multiple-generation of grey squirrels who share our property. When checking a water pipe we had covered and wrapped for winter only, we were surprised to find the wrapping had become the winter home of a hibernating ground squirrel. Surely this is a time for us to be equally ingenious and enterprising in our quest to find a safe haven where we can afford to rest easy, even if like our ground squirrel the place we find is a different from what we’d expect and maybe even a bit non-conventional.

7. Sleep the sleep of a loyal dog. I love to watch our dog sleep. Once he’s assured everyone is settled into their proper places and all around the house is well for the time being, he curls up nearby and drifts into a deep, rhythmically peaceful sleep. No futzing over the details of the day, no fretting over the worries of tomorrow. Aaah. I feel myself relaxing just watching him. Don’t we owe ourselves such deep and peaceful sleep? How can we take on the day, or even make it through the day, unless we are adequately rested. So once we’ve found our safe place and all is well for the time being, let’s give ourselves a break. Let’s sleep the sound sleep of a loyal dog.

I've been making a place for these simple lessons in guiding my life each day and find them indeed most helpful in keeping me atuned to the new and emerging reality of our New Year.


Susan said...

What a treasure this is! Thanks, Sarah for the gentle reminders!

Susan said...

What an absolute treasure this blog is! Wonderful reminders! Thanks, Sarah

Anonymous said...

this post has a Tao resonance to it .. lovely, and inspiring. I hope you don't mind that I've linked to it from my Facebook wall

Sarah Anne Edwards said...

Thanks for your kind words, Susan and Mr. Ig. And, Ig, thanks for linking our blog to your Facebook wall.