I look back with gladness to the day when I found the path to
the land of heart’s desire, and thank Fate ceaselessly with a
loud voice that she did not permit town to sap all the years
away while the heart was turning to wind-voices and
flower-faces and the hands of kindly earth.
— Mrs. George Cran, The Garden of Ignorance (1913)
Many of my visitors here openly identify with various forms of “Earth-based spirituality.” That is, you probably recognize in some form that Nature is sacred, and that Divine Consciousness is immanent in the natural world. Even if you do not call yourself Pagan or Witch, but are a believer of one of the more mainstream faiths, I would be willing to wager that you do not subscribe to a doctrine that the natural world is fallen, evil, or at best, a resource simply put here for us to exploit without responsibility or care. After all, we are seeing now where that attitude has landed us – on the edge of global ecological catastrophe. Even some mainstream Christian fundamentalists are shifting their attitudes about the role of humanity regarding good stewardship of the Earth.
For those of you who really do experience the Earth to be sacred, possibly even a spiritual and conscious Divinity, like Gaia, I invite you to consider how you came to this awareness. For many of us, somewhere along the way, we not only became disenchanted with the mainstream offerings of our culture, but we had our own personal encounters with Mystery in the form of Nature.
I would love to hear about those encounters, if you’d care to share them. For if they are anything like my own, they were a pivotal moment of truth in your life that you will never forget.
But to have those kinds of experiences, we have to actually spend time in the natural world.
And these days, for many people, especially our children, that is a problem. Some of us, of a certain age, grew up spending nearly every free waking moment in unstructured play time outdoors. But over the past decades this has changed.
Nowadays, children spend far less time outdoors and have much less access to real natural areas. What time is spent out of doors is under close supervision in highly controlled environments, like manicured yards, sports fields, or designer playgrounds. In addition, of course, we know that kids are increasingly addicted to electronic media while their parents harbor exaggerated fears of natural and human predators. Meantime, what few natural, wild spaces there are, are fast disappearing under development, or because access is forbidden due to the owner’s fears of litigation or vandalism.
We are now seeing a “perfect storm” of these combined factors, taking a devastating toll on our population, but particularly our children. If kids can’t spend unguarded, private time alone in Nature, how will they ever value or learn what Nature is? How will they ever have their own magical experiences of the Divine if all they know of Nature is soccer practice and their parents’ fears about West Nile Virus, skin cancer, tick bites, or pedophiles hiding in the bushes?
The price of this alienation is enormous, and I’ll have more to say about what it does to all of us tomorrow.