entrance

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During a nature walk this past weekend, the leader explained the theory behind a new program offering at the nature center this season. ‘Seeing Nature’ will gift its participants with journals in which we will be invited to describe what we see, sketching details and recording particulars such as location, size, sunlight, etc. We will be invited to research our findings and learn the names of our plants. Each week we’ll revisit those discoveries to note growth and changes, the intention being that we will become so familiar , so entranced, with our plants that we will remember who they are. The thought is that as long as one person (the hike leader, in this case) holds the knowledge for the others, they have no reason to integrate that knowledge themselves. A side affect of such paying attention, I believe, will be that we will be filled with delight in the slowing down and looking closer. It has been said that the key to environmental protection is reintroducing persons to the natural world in intimate ways, so that they fall in love with it. What you love, you want to preserve.

I remember learning that this idea was also the basis for oral storytelling traditions, and that they distrusted the written word for this reason- persons would no longer hold the wisdom of their people and the earth within themselves. Knowledge would become something inert, an object outside of the self. Relationships would be forgotten… between water and fruit, for instance, or the people and the earth.

Today, I received a letter in the mail from a dear old friend who has spent the last year confined in a long-term care facility.  It was so good to hear from her that she ‘has found her goodness’. She described it like this, ‘I had to break away from all the good that others were offering in order to find my own good’. I thought of the plants and the naturalist holding all of that earth knowledge for the hikers in such a way that they couldn’t seem to hold onto it for themselves. It seems that we have to discover a thing for ourselves in order for it to sink deep into our bones, become a very part of who we are — this slow process is like lovemaking in this way, we open to take it in, it becomes a part of who we are.

I thought of my daughter, how I long for her to see her own goodness and beauty, how it seems I have practically tried to beat it into her through the years. Of course, she has to find it for herself, no millions of times of me telling her will make it sink in. I thought of myself too, the way that I forget time and again my own goodness and beauty… it needs to become more than skin deep.

The word for today is Entrance. After yesterday’s exploration of the word ‘choice’, in which the words ‘I yearn to uncover a path to a landscape where such soil might be deeply cultivated. This is the choice at this fork in the road, which I seek to open in the brambles’ came tumbling out onto the page, I knew the entrance right away that I would seek to photograph.

A decade ago, or so, the gypsy moth devastated a large swath of forest on our ridge. There have been two approaches to restoration. On one side of the road all of the dead trees were cut and removed, save a few seed trees, and nature has been allowed to take its course. On the other side, the forest was allowed to stand as it was and then fall, naturally rejuvenating itself, while enclosed by an exclusion fence, for protection from the overpopulations of browsing deer in this area. I spend a lot of time in both places for I find something cathartically healing in each as I witness the regrowth. Neither place is beautiful by esthetic standards, but they are in the way that a wound is beautiful after it heals, making of its bearer something wiser.

As I entered the exclusion area today, with this pressing and deep need for solitude in my heart, I appreciated the care taken to keep the grazers at bay, those whose hunger would cut to the quick any new growth that might be pushing through while it was still tender. It can be counterintuitive to think of caging a thing in order for it to be free… free to express itself naturally, free to bud and to bloom and to grow something new, but like a secret garden, walled off, magic is happening there. Over long, slow time, the earth is rediscovering its own definition of goodness.

I realize that I yearn for such a place for myself, separated for a time from life’s browsers. Persons go to monasteries or artist’s residences or retreat houses for such an enclosure. They go to Walden Pond and Algonquin too. To the woods or the desert. Their bodies become sick. They turn inward, become still and quiet, look closer, fall in love. They write and they pray, discovering previously unknown treasures. This human need for solitude is vital to rediscovering our goodness. Enclosures become invitations, entrances to places where we become familiar with ourselves in a deep way, learning our own name, not the one that has been given us by others. Our relationships with ourselves heal and we remember who we are.

As I sat down to write this evening, scribbling the word, entrance, atop the page, I was for the first time struck by its dual meaning. All day, as the word simmered in me , I had only in me mind the meaning ‘opening into, or place of entering’. Writing the word out made me instantly see it in a new way. Entrance, the emphasis on the second syllable, means something else entirely, something kin to enchanted,  delighted, something akin to falling in love. Of course! And it seems you don’t come to the second without opening and passing through the slow invitation of the first.

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