A friend of mine teaches outdoor survival skills. Things like friction fire-making, animal tracking, finding water, bow hunting, and so on. Something that came up in a recent conversation had to do with the way humans are always bringing our agendas to nature. We generally go into nature not to give, but to get something.
A few of the people my friend works with are interested in deep nature connection and awareness. But most come to her because they see this as a way to feel capable and powerful. “They want to be Rambo,” as she puts it. It’s cool. And in a society that is so emasculating and confining I can see the appeal.
I’ve observed a similar pattern with folks who are interested in learning about local plants. It’s usually because we want to know about medicinal applications or wild food. I’m certainly interested in those things.
And then there’s the whole area of things like vision questing and contemplative nature retreats. I’m getting ready to go on one of these myself in about a week, and I’ve been reflecting on how I’ll be relating to the place where we’ll be camping, and the nature beings that live there. There is definitely part of me that is hoping for dialogue. For signs and omens and guidance. For gifts. But I wonder how available I will be to simply listen to what nature has to say, regardless of its relevance to my personal concerns?
Just to be clear: I don’t mean to knock the way of relating to nature in the context of our own needs and interests, as though it’s wrong. Not at all. Like all animals, this is just what humans do. We must. Survival and growth comprise vital territories for developing our connection to nature, to ally with Her, and to do so consciously. Engaging bodily with nature’s processes is a necessary and excellent way to deepen our relationship. My friend says the best way to learn about the energy of fire is not to contemplate it, or look at it, or write about it; but to make it. I agree. The best way to learn about photosynthesis is to be a gardener. And to eat the transmogrified light that you have tended.
So my point is not that we should dispense with our agendas. But that it’s good to be aware of them. To what degree am I using nature to shore up my ego? Am I looking to get without giving anything back? What might I have to offer in return for nature’s generous support? Part of our unique role as humans is that we have the ability to witness nature and hold space for Her unfolding. Her agenda. What an honor to play this role.