A Relationship of Abundance
Reed & Tim Contemplate Life at Cape Perpetua, Leah Wilson
What if We Are Nature?
What would happen if fear and guilt is dropped from conversations about the environment? What would it feel like to think of ourselves as part of nature rather than something separate we need to fix? What if the land is internalized so we are in fact, healing ourselves? What if we change perspective to be in relationship with the earth?
Manzanita, graphite in sketchbook, Leah Wilson
Relationship Built on Abundance
I do not want to be in a relationship based on scarcity. There is not a shortage of love. If I give love away, I will not have a deficit, I will have more. Conversation is also not in short supply. If I want to have a deep, engaging conversation, sharing my thoughts and perspectives, and listening and responding thoughtfully to yours produces more thoughts and ideas for both of us to play with.
Love and conversation grow in the warmth generated by the exchange. This is no secret. Healthy relationships are reciprocal. What if we thought this way about the environment? What would we be able to do if we were in a reciprocal relationship with the land instead of looking at the environment as a place of scarcity that needs to be conserved, or a resource from which to take, or the background to be ignored?
Plume from a fire by the Three Sisters from 3-Fingered Jack, Leah Wilson
There is a houseplant in an office where I work. It receives plenty of light and water, but it wilts and struggles. Someone had been flooding this plant. Stagnant water pools in its pot above the soil. It smells of death. Water is necessary. Too much water creates stagnation and rot. The plant wilts and dies from not only too much of a necessary thing, but also a lack of nutrients and oxygen. The overabundance of one thing given in ignorance and without awareness creates scarcity. The plant does not thrive.
Environmentalists are correct in calling attention to the ecological problems and imbalances we are face together on this planet caused by our ignorance and lack of awareness. But many are adding to the problems. I question their rhetoric. Too much water kills the plant. Too much relentless talk of crisis, fear, and guilt wilts even people who care deeply about the environment. How much despair can anyone absorb before becoming over-saturated. This type of rhetoric creates a crisis of scarcity leading to inaction and paralysis, and even apathy. There is no time for this.
Mussels, Cape Perpetua, Leah Wilson
Change the Strategy
I wonder what would happen if the strategy was changed. Instead of creating an atmosphere of fear and scarcity, what if environmentalists cultivated relationship, reciprocity, and love? What if things were turned on its head to approach cultivating a relationship with nature – with ourselves – from the perspective of abundance?
This is not the same vision of abundance of industrialized society approaching forests as renewable resources that provide endless amounts of trees to cut down, and the seas as having endless supplies of fish. This attitude is antithesis to the attitude of reciprocity. The bottomless pit of natural resource attitude is one of greed and ignorance. It takes, and what it does give back, it does so in ignorance and lack of awareness. Clear cutting a forest, then replanting a monoculture crop of trees in its place is giving in ignorance on a much larger scale than overwatering a houseplant. Returning forests to monocultures limits the entire ecosystem and, in fact, increases scarcity.
Reciprocity, in contrast, first gives, then asks what can be taken in a mutually beneficial exchange.
Hulda from Wadell Beach, graphite in sketchbook, Leah Wilson
What if we began in our own backyards by asking some of these questions of our local ecosystems:
- By increasing my understanding this place, can I also simultaneously see, utilize, and know it in a different way, in a way that my presence and actions can initiate and eventually establish connection, knowing, and belonging?
- What is the personal effect of consciously setting out to develop a deep connection and relationship with this place?
- How will my actions and decisions change and be guided by this relationship?
- How does that affect the land?
Answers to questions like this are often revealed slowly, and most often searching for answers leads to more questions. Connections are often found within ephemeral experiences.
My process of coming to know and building relationships with places can feel like attempting to collect the evanescence. However, continuing the seemingly futile attempt to collect what cannot be held focuses my attention and increases clarity. Continuing this process opens a space for deeper investigation to notice what the environment reveals within its unfolding layers. Through an intentional persistent and cyclical process of asking, noticing, collecting, creating, and reflecting, connections are made, my relationship with the ecological communities deepens and shapes me, and my relationship evolves.
WORK IN PROGRESS Stories Told by Water: Lookout Creek, walnut oil, charcoal and mica on paper, 30 x 22.5 in., Leah Wilson
My voice evolves with this process. With that, so do my actions, decisions, and my art. This introspective process seems too slow at times to be effective, but I hope that as small as it is, it is more effective than inaction.
What if it can inspire someone else to ameliorate the disconnection they may feel from their own environments and places? How would that, in turn, affect the places that they have come to know? What if building relationships with the land starts to spread from me to you and beyond? What if we all acted from the perspective of abundance that can be shared and enjoyed by each of us, and the land in which we live because our actions are guided by reciprocity and love?
I believe that this small, quiet way can become a powerful force. I believe that it will have the ability to sustain the momentum that is necessary over time because it is resilient, As seductive as they are, fear and guilt erode resilience. I am up for trying a different approach: Relationship, Connection, Reciprocity, Abundance. Will you join me?
7 Lakes Basin, Near Heart Lake, Olympic Peninsula, WA, Leah Wilson
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