Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Tattered Remains Of Who We Once Were

Recently, I have been pondering the ways that we, as civilized people, destroy our environment, ourselves, and all of the things around us that offer support, sustenance, nurturing, and life.  Perhaps this is a result of our recent whirlwind trip to Pennsylvania then through Kentucky, and North Carolina only to turn around and head back home.

Over the years, I have researched  the native people in my area.  I am often quite frustrated by the lack of concrete information about the true nature of their lives before white settlers disrupted their way of life, their villages, and the bloodlines.  Anecdotally, few of the natives who still claim their heritage have a real understanding of the meaning behind their culture and the relationship with the land that now supports us all.  Their wisdom is dying through the loss of elders and the lack of interest in the younger generations of people to continue to remember the teachings passed down through the millennia.  Thankfully, there are a few folks, like Kerry Hardy (author of "Notes On A Lost Flute:  A Field Guide To The Wabanaki") trying to preserve some of the information.  Unfortunately, each author has a specific focus and saves on the tiniest, shards of the whole story.

Mr. Kerry has done a admirable job in trying to fill in some of the holes, but his focus was on discovering the lay of the infrastructure we have now as compared with that in the 1600s (pre-contact).  He uncovers a lot of "trivia" about their diet, their migration patterns, and their interaction with the environment.  By the way, I term it trivia, because in a single book, it would be impossible to fill in all of the details about every aspect of native life in those times.  As I said, he does a fantastic job and what he covers would create the foundation for an interesting museum about the people who lives here before the arrival of European settlers.

In a similar vein, Tom Wessels (author of "Reading The Forested Landscape: A Natural History Of New England") speaks about the landscape in the New England both before and after the arrival of white settlers.  His particular bent is reading the landscape to understand what has been.  His book is an extremely interesting read, as is Mr. Kerry's, but again there are mere fragments of the knowledge I feel is critical for us.  The knowledge to change our way of interacting on the land to being in relationship with the land. 

We can not continue to exploit her forevermore without overstaying our welcome.  She simply does not have unlimited resources and neither can she provide when we destroy all of the natural landscape to build our homes and workplaces.  As you may have gathered from all of this, I feel strongly about this.

Lately, I have been thinking specifically about the seasons.  I have tried to imagine what it might be like for the inhabitants of our area to live here.  In particular, I wonder about their sources of food.  This should come as no surprise given that our new book, "Browsing Nature's Aisles" (which is available to purchase over on the sidebar), has hit the market and we have just returned from speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair. 

I have been thinking over the passing of the seasons that we have experienced through our learning and growing ... starting with the sugaring, the spring greens, the tender young shoots, the berries, the nuts, and the wild game that surrounds us.  It occurred to me that this same cycle has been repeating for countless generations of people.  Initially, I was saddened by our loss of connection to nature and her cycle of wonder.  That was until I realized that we, modern day, work-a-day people still live with this.  Of course, our reliance on oil and our massive distribution infrastructure do a good job hiding it. 

Many people still go out and spend time in the wood, even just to camp.  They feel the primal pull to connect with Mother Nature.  We are, regardless of what some may think, animals that have developed relying on her.  We have simply learned how to bend her to our will, even to her own detriment.  We pick berries, we gather nuts, we hunt!  Our bodies, in spite of our best efforts, still react to the nature world ... our disconnection makes us sick (nature deficit disorder), our reconnection heals us (forest bathing).

Perhaps all of this was why, a few years ago, I felt the pull to take up hunting (bow only still).  This year, I have added migratory waterfowl to the list of potential sources of meat.  But in all of this, I have been more careful to observe not only the habits of the prey I seek, but the way the environment changes around us, for the better or the worse.  I have tried to become more aware of not only the plant and animal species with which I share the planet, but the interacts they each have with the Earth and the other creatures who share it.

One day, someday, I hope to have the opportunity to learn first hand from those who remain that remember how to live with the earth.  I wish to share it with those who will listen and take note of the wisdom.  Maybe I already have begun, with all we have learned about foraging and the released of "Browsing Nature's Aisles" and I did not recognize it.  I still have much to learn.  I know that the Universe, as it has done each time I have asked, will provide a suitable teacher (two legged, four legged, or otherwise) at the optimal time and place.

Water make the river
River wash the mountain
Fire make the sunlight
Turn the world around
Heart is of the river
Body is the mountain
Spirit is the sunlight
Turn the world around
We are of the spirit
Truly of the spirit
Only can the spirit
Turn the world around
-Harry Belafonte, from an African Story

Be well, kind, and tread lightly wherever you are.