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To Walk on the Wild Side

I was talking with a neighbor about this summer's erratic and extreme weather pattern. I shared my fear for the future as climate change accelerates locally and globally. He listened calmly and said: "Well, the good news is that I'm 75 years old and won't be around to see it."

That comment reflects the mindset of many. The effects of climate change are increasingly impossible to ignore. Yet there seems to be a default coping mechanism in the brain, that pushes away the cataclysmic. To focus on the immediate and to ignore what is just around the corner.

Despair is another response. Regarding climate change, a different neighbor said: "That horse has left the barn. There's nothing we can do to stop it."

Which raises a question. Is there an alternative to denial and despair?

Allow me to offer a third way. This third way is rooted in an ancient way of seeing and being. Our guides come from indigenous traditions and a minority stream within my own Judeo-Christian tradition.

Those who walk the third way, invite us to reawaken to a sense of the sacred that is already deep in the human soul, our primordial relationship with nature, our ancient mother love. Robin Wall Kimmerer, an indigenous elder and PHD botanist, in her beautiful and provocative book, Braiding Sweetgrass, writes:

From Pacific Crest Trail, Gifford Pinchot Wilderness, WA

'Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.'

Moses, in the book of Exodus 3: 5, offers:

'Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.'

A story of revelation such as this, like every great spiritual revelation, points to what is deep in every place and every moment, and the greater the revelation, the deeper it is is pointing. All ground is holy. Every moment is sacred. The invitation is to wakeup to this sacredness in all things.

Another voice for this third way, is John Muir (1838 -1914). Muir, a native of Scotland and later advocate for the protection of Yosemite and Sequoia as national parks, was rooted in the wisdom of Celtic spirituality. The Celts both pagan and Christian, emphasized creation as a nurturing force (mother earth) and as a sacred, inter-dependent web.

Kent at Sequoia National Park, CA

Muir wrote:

'We are to return to the mountains and be born anew. Go back to the mountains and get their good tidings. Winds will blow their freshness into you and storms will give you new energy. Nature's love will get into your heart as surely as sunshine into trees. All of this is God's temple. In God's wildness lies the hope of the world.'

Each guide reminds us that we are loved by a Creator that has brought all of creation into being. That all is interconnected, interdependent. To put it plainly 'if you love the Creator then take care of Creation'.

When viewed through this lens, the natural world is no longer a commodity to be plundered but a sacred trust to be cherished. We embrace the wisdom of the Iroquois who ask: 'How will our decision today, effect those seven generations removed?'

Regarding the climate crisis, we know what to do, for example: Stop burning fossil fuels, implement policies which safeguard our planet (clean water, clean air). Help the Nature Conservancy plant a billion trees (that sequester carbon, cool the planet and breathe out oxygen) Join in with a group of kindred souls

It all comes back to love. As Braiding Sweetgrass offers: When you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.

With friends August 2023, backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, among Douglas Fir, WA

The third way calls to us. It's a pathway that leads us home, to a sense of communion with the beauty, wonder and complexity of the natural world. Offering a way towards that which is life giving for all.

Time is of the essence. Let's walk together.

With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop

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Joseph Broadmeadow
Joseph Broadmeadow
Sep 14, 2023

I think if more oropke actually walked in the woods, as you and I have, they would come to understand how fundanentally necessary preserving the earth is.

Kent Harrop
Kent Harrop
Sep 16, 2023
Replying to

Joe, agreed. Being in the woods has a way of expanding one's imagination...and, to remember that we are part of something amazing that is bigger than us. A hopeful sign was being on the Pacific Crest Trail and see so many young people trekking the 2650 mile trail from Mexico to Canada. For many I'd imagine a profoundly connecting experience with the natural world.

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