“The animacy of the world is something we already know, but the language of animacy teeters on extinction—not just for Native peoples, but for everyone. Our toddlers speak of plants and animals as if they were people, extending to them self and intention and compassion—until we teach them not to. We quickly retrain them and make them forget. When we tell them that the tree is not a who, but an it, we make that maple an object; we put a barrier between us. Absolving ourselves of moral responsibility and opening the door to exploitation. Saying it makes a living land into “natural resources.” If a maple is an it, we can take up the chain saw. If the maple is a her, we think twice.
From: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Robin Wall Kimmerer. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2013. p.57
When we agree to (or get tricked into) being part of something bigger than our own weird, fixated minds, we are saved. When we search for something larger than our own selves to hook into, we can cope through whatever life throws at us… “Larger” can mean a great cause, a project of restoration, or it can mean a heightened, expansive sense of the now.
From: Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair. Anne Lamott. NY: Riverhead Books, 2013. p.91
It is as impossible to live without reverence as it is without joy.
From: The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston. Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, Doran and Co., 1928. Reprint: New York : H. Holt, c1992
We move through our days on a kind of automatic pilot, unaware of how tightly we hold ourselves in and apart from one another, how much stress and resistance are involved in keeping a steady course against the universal winds. But here, for an hour, all winds seemed to cease, the multifarious sounds they muffle were released, and nature’s unstrung voices made themselves heard in the dark silence.
From: Outlands: Journeys to the Outer Edges of Cape Cod by Robert Finch. Jaffrey, NH: David R. Godine, C1986, 2002. p.70
In every heartbreak beauty intrudes. I am willing to be taken. The wind touches my wrists. I hear the caterwauling of the crows. I taste and smell the clammy air. I see everything. Art does not make up a life. Experience does not make up a life. And death does not make up a life either. I don’t see why eternity has to last forever: Those whom I have loved and who have loved me—no matter what happened to dilute that love or to cool it or even to drown it: I should like to gather them all on that far shore and thank them. They were my life.
From: Kayak Morning: Reflections On Love, Grief, and Small Boats by Roger Rosenblatt. New York: Ecco, 2010. p. 145
The sense of otherness is, I feel, as necessary a requirement to our personalities as food and warmth are to our bodies. Just as an individual, cut off from human contact and stimulation, may atrophy and die of loneliness and neglect, so mankind is today in a similar, through more subtle, danger of cutting himself off from the natural world he shares with all creatures. If our physical survival depends upon our devising a proper use of earth’s materials and produce, our growth as a species depends equally upon our establishing a vital and generative relationship with what surrounds us.
We need plants, animals, weather, unfettered shores and unbroken woodland, not merely for a stable and healthy environment, but as an antidote to introversion, a preventive against human inbreeding. Here in particular, in the splendor of natural life, we have an extraordinary reservoir of the Cape’s untapped possibilities and modes of being, ways of experiencing life, of knowing wind and wave. After all, how many neighborhoods have whales wash up in their backyards? To confine this world in zoos or in exclusively human terms does injustice not only to nature, but to ourselves as well.
From: Common Ground: A Naturalist’s Cape Cod by Robert Finch. Boston: David R. Godine, 1981. p.103
It is here, on this edge of sand and surf, where I must have developed my need to see the horizon, to look outward as far and wide as possible. My hunger for vistas has never left me. And it is here, I must have fallen in love with water, recognizing its power and sublimity, where I learned to trust that what I love can kill me, knock me down, and threaten to drown me with its unexpected wave. If so, then it was also here where I came to know I can survive what hurts. I believed in my capacity to stand back up and run into the waves again, and again, no matter the risk. A wave would break, rush toward me, covering my feet, and retreat into the sea, followed by another and another. This was the great seduction. There was no end to the joyful exaltation on this edge of oscillations.
Breaking waters. We are born from what is fluid, not fixed. Water is essential. A mother is essential. The ocean as mother is mesmerizing in her power, a creative force that can both comfort and destroy.
Power is the sea’s thundering voice, the curling and crashing of waves. Water is nothing if not ingemination, an encore to the tenacity of life. And life held in the sea is surface and depth, what we see and what we imagine. We cast a line, we throw out a net, what emerges is religion in the form of a fish.
From: When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. Pg. 21-22
The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth, it can lie down like silk breathing or toss havoc shoreward; it can give gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can sweet-talk entirely. As I can too, and so, no doubt, can you, and you.
From: A Thousand Mornings. Mary Oliver.New York : Penguin Press, 2012.
Waves are, after all, forms moving through mass, bundles of energy expressed as curves; when a curve can’t maintain shape because of a shoaling sandbar, its energy bunches higher and tighter until it reaches up over itself, remaking the wave form by pushing water out to close the curve; expressing the original arc, but with a hollow, spinning core. In which the surfer stands. The climber never quite penetrates the mountain, the hiker remains trapped in the visual prison, but the surfer physically penetrates the heart of the ocean’s energy—and this is in no sense sentimentality—stands wet in its substance, pushed by its drive inside the kinetic vortex. Even riding a river, one rides a medium itself moved by gravity, likewise with a sailboard or on skis. Until someone figures out how to ride sound or light, surfing will remain the only way to ride energy. pp. 143-144.
From: Caught Inside. Daniel Duane. North Point Pr., NY 1996. pp. 143-144.
Beauty here, however, vast and compelling, is mindless. Life here, for all its marvelous adaptability and ongoing change, is caught in a matrix of forces over which it did not have, and would never have, any control. Whenever I extend myself far enough into nature, I always reach this point, where I sense ‘the hollow mind of the Universe,’ and my humanity catches up with me. It is this ultimate barrenness, even more that and the biting sea wind, that finally chills me back into my own world.
From: Common Ground: A Naturalist’s Cape Cod by Robert Finch. Boston: David R. Godine, 1981. p. 113.
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never, attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
From: The Outermost House. Henry Beston Henry Holt Pub., 1992. First published in 1928. pp.24-25.