Friday, October 16, 2015

Where do we belong?

"I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know:  am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?"
--Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours,12

In search of things that don't belong . . .

This past summer, I helped with an outdoor education class (Bailey's Budding Naturalists) at the Bailey Museum.  One activity was to walk through a trail and look for things that didn't belong.  There were a variety of items that were placed throughout the woods and trail (a pair of pliers, a stuffed iguana, a comb . . . ).  One bright child said, "I know what doesn't belong, we don't belong!"  I hadn't thought of that answer.  I asked him, "Are you sure?"  and then, "If we don't belong here, where do we belong?"  We didn't come up with answers, but what an interesting question.  Where do we belong?  Where is our home?

This question has floated through my mind ever since.  Where do we belong?  I would like to believe that I do belong in the woods but if I am honest, I think I mostly consider myself a visitor or an observer, not really a family member.  What if the natural world was how we defined home? What if we saw our houses as shelter, but the environment  (the trees, grass, squirrels, insects, birds etc.) as all part of our home?  What if we really realized that we played a part in the habitat around us --that we are not just bystanders, but really an integral part of the web of life in the natural world of our neighborhoods?  What if we thought about how we fit into our habitat and how we impact our wild home?  Although these notions might not cross our minds, I'm guessing that the many creatures that live with us recognize and respond to us the moment we step foot outside.  As we wander near a pond, frogs stop croaking, rabbits take cover, birds send warning calls, crickets jump. . . As we step outside, we are not invisible bystanders; we are part of the web of life, whether or not we are paying attention.  Our presence changes things and makes a difference.

When I start to think this way, I also begin to realize that I have so much more in common with the trees, squirrels, nuthatches and ferns than the appliances, chairs and tables in my house.  All those things that make our lives convenient are nice --don't get me wrong-- but they are simply part of our shelter.  Our habitat is so much bigger than that, isn't it?  I'm trying to imagine that I belong in nature.  I'm trying to remind myself that we are active members of the natural world.  It draws me into wonder more . . .What lives in that dead tree?  Where do those rabbits go? What bird was that?  And maybe, in the end, it makes me care more.  How am I helping or hurting the habitat I'm a part of?  What can I do to help support those birds through the winter?  What does that butterfly need to survive?  Maybe this is the shift of thinking that will help us each do our small part to save our environment, our home.  

"I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. . ."   I read this poem the other day and it reminded me of that wonderful question, "where do we belong?"  It made me think that we are part of a widening circle that reaches across the world.  We do belong in the great web of life.  When we walk into the woods we are home.  The wild world is, in the deepest sense, home.  Our ancestors knew this.  I would like to believe that I'm beginning to remember it.  Maybe there will be a time when I realize that I am the falcon and the storm and the great song.  And so is everyone else. . .