Humanity is living a lie. For centuries we have seen ourselves as superior, a species destined to rule all others, called by God to dominate The Wild. Armed with great hubris, we have waged war on the the wilderness, confident we were living out our destiny by raping and pillaging the natural world. Though our actions have brought great devastation and loss, more insidious still, is the lie that drives us, the lie that we are a species apart.
When I was a teenager, we went to Cape Hatteras on vacation. I’d never been on the Atlantic coast before and although the waves were quite large, I assumed I could body surf as safely here as I had in the familiar Gulf. One morning I swam out from the beach, caught a rising wave, and went rushing towards the shore. The wave broke sooner than I’d expected and instead of gliding gently to the beach, I went under. I can still feel the raw power in that wave as it pummeled me on the sea floor. Over and over I was forced down, battered and bruised. I honestly believed I was going to drown. Just as I began to inhale the sea, the wave relented and I was able to swim to the surface and clamor back to solid ground. As I sat on the beach afterwards, staring out at the waves, I realized for the first time that The Wild wasn’t a gentle, caring soul who would give me safe passage because I was part of the human race. In Her realm I was just a foolish land-dweller who had gone out into the sea. If I could swim I would live, if not, I would drown and the burden would lay on me. It was a sobering thought for a Lover of the Wild.
As I wrote in my journal that night, another thought came, this one a single ray of hope. If I wasn’t a species apart, then I could become part of the whole. If I was willing to learn the ways of The Wild, I could enter Her world as an initiate (or at least a novice) because I was made of stardust, carbon, and DNA. I was truly a sister to every living thing.
I was, of course, being a bit simplistic. My birthright may not be in question, but there is much about humans that must be undone before we can enter into community with The Wild. Because we have set ourselves apart for so many hundred generations, we have to rediscover our niche in the natural world. We have been outsiders for centuries and it will take time to learn how (and where) we fit in. The Wild bids us welcome, but before we can become a part, we must be willing to let Nature take the lead. We must let go of our fears, our greed, and our hubris and sit, like an obedient child, waiting to be taught anew.
The last morning of our vacation, I went down to the beach early and sat in the cool, damp sand where the gentle surf crept up to touch my feet. I felt the sea breeze rising and the pulse of the waves in my heart. “I am here,” I whispered, “I am ready.”
Photo: “Song of the Waters” by Julie Atkinson
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