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I wrote the following so many years ago I don't remember when or why.
I'm posting it here today because I had an experience of seeing nature in a new way on Sunday as Larry and I were driving along the Sonoma County coast here in California. I've added my new experience at the end.
For most of my life, I hardly noticed Nature or even thought about it. Nature to me was off somewhere else, in a park or at summer camp. My world and the world of Nature were two entirely different and separate places.
When I first met Larry, I was surprised to find that he saw the world with completely different eyes. We were walking in the financial district of downtown San Francisco one day, a street where buildings tower so high, you can hardly see the sky. While my attention was on the store windows, he said, "Look at that bird nest!" Bird nest?!!?!?! I walked down the street and saw only concrete, signs, front doors, people, cars and diamond rings in a jeweler's window. He walked down the same street and saw bird nests, birds, flowers in window boxes, trees in planters, and cats running by. He felt the sun on his hair and the wind on his face. He changed the way I look at the world forever.
Nature is everywhere, in everything. I now see the tree in the wood my desk is made of. The clay of the earth in the bowl I am eating from, veins of silver in my spoon, and the cow that gave its milk for my yogurt. Nature is all around me, and I dwell within it.
At the same time, Nature dwells within me. My own body as a living organism follows the same patterns of life as all other living organisms. It must take in nourishment and expel wastes, there must be energy and communication and purpose. These functions hold true whether we are looking at the organism of a cell, a heart, a body, a tree, a forest, or a city. Organisms work cooperatively for the good of all, whether they be cells joined to create an organ, organs joined together to be a human body, or individuals working together in a community group for the common good.
Nature operates on huge cycles that run throughout the Earth, connecting each one of us with each other, all other species, the land, and the cosmos. Though the water in our homes comes from a tap, we drink rain and snow. When we purchase food from a supermarket, we are eating sunlight transformed by flora and fauna. We fill our own lungs with air that is circulating around the planet, passing through forests and thunderstorms, flying on currents of wind in great cycles from poles to equator.
That we think we are separate from Nature is only a shift of perception. Life courses through our veins just as surely as it rises in the sap of a tree or moves in the delicate wings of a butterfly. Life force is powerful, it is abundant, it regenerates. It is infinite and eternal. And it is present in each one of us.
Coming to know ourselves as Nature is not a matter of trying to become something we are not...no...it is to observe anew what we already are--living beings who have the ability to be aware of and act in harmony with the flows and processes that successfully sustain all life.
* * * * *
Last Sunday, as Larry and I were driving along the winding roads of the Sonoma County coastline, I noticed I was being intensely aware of Nature around my body and within it. As we were driving there were other cars and people on beaches, and buildings and boats, but I was seeing the blue sky, sunbeams and fog, water and waves crashing into ancient rocks, birds flying by and flowers blooming. I felt the cool air entire my warm lungs and the sun on my skin. I could smell the sea and hear the squawking of gulls that is so familiar after a lifetime of living near this coastline.
I remembered how I was 32 years ago when I first met Larry and began to see the world as he sees it. What an extraordinary gift, one for which I am grateful every day. We truly do live in a different world.
The first part of this post was published as a sidebar in the book Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House: Bringing Your Home into Harmony with Nature by Carol Venolia and Kelly Lerner. It is a great book about aligning yourself and your home with nature, even if your home was originally built to industrial consumer standards.