Posted by: Jane Valencia | August 28, 2009

How Are You Nature?

A Medicine Tree In The Sierras -- gripping granite

A Medicine Tree In The Sierras -- gripping granite

About a month ago, our family traveled to Amador County for an extended family gathering. A huge delight of our trip was clambering on gargantuan granite boulders, and discovering some amazing medicine trees. I love this one. As a seed how did it come to find just what it needed on this rock? Just enough soil caught in the cracks, just enough water at the right times, or snow. The tenacity of extending its roots and gripping stone–I just love that! I could have spent the entire day with this particular tree, exploring the furrows in its bark, gently patting its moss clothing, nibbling on a scaly leaf …

Back home in the suburbs I have other trees that speak their medicine. They may not be as ancient (or maybe they are) or as tenacious in the face of the elements (or maybe they are), but they speak to me in other ways. The incense-cedar thrusting huge limbs well above the houses, and providing plenty of habitat and food for creatures like the chickadees, the squirrels, and the little woodpecker (what kind is that speckled one?), and who knows who else that I haven’t discovered yet. The hawthorn ripening with berries, lichened limbs, bark chiseled by insects and woodpeckers–I can almost glimpse its pink blossoms, known from other years I lived here, even though it is berry time.

When we notice nature we are noticing something of ourselves, something unrecognized perhaps, or perhaps a well-known reflection. In another sense, we are noticing something of our extended nature, who we are beyond our bodies, our human nature. How might we experience ourselves as ecology? Extending shelter and shade, food, and proud presence to others–beings different from ourselves, being strong in who we are, or weekened by the elements, time, the insects or illness,. How are we nourished by the simple things (not so simple really!)–the essentials of water, sun, soil, and air?

When we tend to the nature around us, feeding soil, gifting water, or just appreciating the beauty, or climbing into the limbs — we are extending our sense of who we are, or erasing our sense, or coming into our senses. We do not need to engage in some intellectual or poetic rhapsody about how that tree is us or we are the tree (though we can), we need only be with the tree, or the rock, or the flitting of the birds about the yard, or the brash growth of Dandelion in the herbicide drenched, chemical-green lawn. We need only mingle with those other beings, with the larger ecology with our hearts, minds, hopefully our other senses — touch, smell, taste (when you can!), listening to who is visiting, too — the bee, the flies, the birds, the scrabble of Squirrel up a tree, or the flicking of Towhee in the leaves. Immerse and mingle, and when you’ve left, tell the story to yourself of who you met, what you experienced, what if felt like on your skin, in your heart. Tell the story to someone else.

When you experience something of nature, be sure to tell the story–to yourself, if no one else. When you do — if you haven’t realized what has happened already — you become nature. Something other has been etched into your limbs, mind, vision, and you may find yourself twitching like the squirrel, or embodying that bold weather-torqued strength of that lone tree on the granite boulder. In your cells you have become that nature, even if briefly. When you recall it, the nature extends, wriggling roots deeper through you. You may begin to wonder if nature has become you in turn!


How have you been Nature today?

I’d love to hear your story!

What would this valley of stone tell you about you?

What would this valley of stone tell you about you?

A cloud over her head -- but isn't it a sweet one?

A cloud over her head -- but isn't it a sweet one?



  1. Ahhhhhh, yes. . . Thank you, Jane. Reading this, my fingers begin to itch and twitch, desiring to touch dirt, bark, leaves, to breathe deeply the lovely greens and blues, to BE.

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