The real world

“If everything is intimately connected, then the quality and integrity of
all kinds of relationships are of paramount importance.”

~ Elgin

Each time I walk around Bartlett Cove, there is one tree (or are there many?) that creaks and groans as I pass. I say hello and echo in solidarity my own creaking and groaning. This interchange has been going on since this past fall between this tree and myself. We picked up our sporadic echo where we left it upon my return to Gustavus and Glacier Bay in late November.

Can we communicate with other species? Can we be heard by the elements and learn from the wisdom of the ground beneath our feet? I can be a stubborn, impatient person, and in my haste I’m afraid I miss what may be subtle efforts to cross a divide that has grown ever vast over years of protecting ourselves from this world.

I have been carpooling with a co-worked from the park, and one evening we spoke of life in Gustavus, comparing our past lives from the lower 48 and those of our friends. My colleague told me a friend of his asked him how he could live in the middle of nowhere. In contrast, his friend considered the place he called home to be “the real world”.

This conversation had my mind tearing at the bit analyzing these words just dripping with metaphor. Of late, I have been reflecting on the language and terminology we use with regard to our species’ existence on this planet and that of the “other” world – human vs. non-human, the developed world, the natural world, animate and inanimate, and so on. Our species, at least those who find ourselves born into Western culture, have developed an innate desire to categorize and to label, further separating ourselves from a pulsing world of which we are most primally a part.

The terms I come up with seem to further this divide – non-human, beyond or more than human, etc. Is there language that can bridge this gap and weave together the human with the many species, elements, tangible, and elusive components of the land, sea, and sky?

Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes behind you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask it permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost to you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

~ David Wagoner, “LOST”

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