“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir
On October 30, 2018, feeling disconnected and fragmented, I left my family, my friends, and my home to embark on a bucket list adventure to the remote, Inupiaq community of Wainwright, Alaska, a place far north of the Arctic Circle. I worked as the middle and high school science teacher in the small, village school. The kids were tough and I was an outsider. Even as a seasoned educator, my first day in the classroom with the 6th graders was indescribably difficult. Reaching to connect with them, I decided our first lesson would be comparing the animals found in the Arctic tundra to the animals found in Richmond, Virginia. They spoke of the majestic raven and I of the sweet songbirds of the temperate climate. As the weeks passed and we continued to learn from each other, I felt trust taking root and relationships budding. We were growing our connections to each other, intertwining our cultures, much like plants use the tiny network of fungal roots to connect and communicate. One day, one of my most difficult, female, 6th grade students handed me this traced drawing – of a songbird. To me, it was a simple sign of peace and acceptance. We are all the same, no matter our climate or culture. We all need the same things – a connection to others and an acknowledgment of our inner beauty and wisdom.
Edward O. Wilson defines the hypothesis of biophilia as “the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Innate means hereditary and hence part of ultimate human nature.” Connecting ourselves with nature can provide us the space and breathing room to unearth our own inner beauty, find our voice, celebrate our gifts and confront our fears. Sitting amongst even the simplest setting in the natural world has positive effects on the physical body and can move one from a state of thinking to a state of mindful being where peace, joy and clarity are sustained. Discovering our place in nature, our interconnectedness to all living things, fills us with humility, gratitude, and awe. We step outside of our stifling small world into the Big Picture where we can exhale. Backyard garden or bucket list outdoor adventure of a lifetime, our relationship with the natural world challenges us to practice our patience, boost our bravery, and raise our resilience as we learn to go with the flow and connect to life’s circle, reminding us we never have to do this alone.
This essay is published in Wild Roof Journal (Issue 10) available on-line at http://www.wildroofjournal.com