Something has been on my mind for a while. Of all the experiences I've had in the wilderness--practicing awareness, survival skills, natural history, community building--what has had the most profound effect on helping me gain a deeper connection to the natural world around me, and how can I pass that on to people that have not had the fortune of being adopted into the growing wilderness community? Read my post on Curiosity for Curiosity's Sake to better understand why I think an awareness of our connection to the natural world is so important.
In my case I was at the right place at the right time, at about the age of 12. It was hard not to join this community when being pulled alongside so many inspiring role models. I am eternally grateful for everything they have done and continue to do for me. You know who you are.
But many people haven't had this opportunity. It isn't realistic for most people to shift their current lifestyle to one of routinely practicing survival skills (foraging, shelter building, water gathering, fire making, etc.), awareness skills (sitspot, animal tracking, natural history observation, journaling, etc.), and building extended family regenerative communities (long-term mentorships, community supported events, etc.) (although I think it is definitely the best way to go!).
|Fire-making the old way|
After much thought I came to this conclusion: The reason that wilderness survival skills appeal to me as much as they do is that they provide a direct link between my sustenance and the raw materials of the Earth. Knowing how to keep a fire going through rain can keep me warm in certain situations where otherwise I might be cold or even freeze to death. Likewise, knowing how and what to forage would help feed me, giving me the energy I need to thrive. In both of these situations the connection between my survival and the Earth is direct.
To try describing that direct connection inevitably includes the feelings of gratitude, pride, and humility. Gratitude, because I am grateful for everyone and every thing that has helped me achieve what I did. I wouldn't have relearned those skills if it weren't for a select few that passed on the old knowledge unsuppressed by the context of our modern technological world. Furthermore, I am grateful for the host of natural occurrences that led to the presence of crayfish in the nearby river and the ground nuts growing on its bank. Pride, because I am proud of my ability to have relearned and successfully applied the necessary skills. And Humility because those experiences helped me realize the broader scheme of things. The green frog in the nearby pond and the white-tailed deer that passed near camp within the last few days are driven to stay alive for much the same reasons I am.
Is it possible that gratitude, pride, and humility outline the major aspects of our connection to the natural world? Maybe Gratitude provides a connection by acknowledging the ancestors, people, animals, plants, and other living and non-living things around us, without which we wouldn't be where we are. See this short video for a powerful take on gratitude. Perhaps Pride can acknowledge the connection to ourselves--without which who would we be? We humans are part of the natural world too, right? Finally, maybe Humility can connect us to the broader picture, helping us see the value in the natural world around us--one that we lived close to for the vast majority of our existence as humans.
The final question then is: Is there a way to gain these feelings of Gratitude, Pride, and Humility without full on nature immersion? Perhaps there is. After all, the computer I'm typing on is essentially made up of raw materials found on Earth, as well as my sketchbook, guitar, and bag of chips sitting on the table--all things I am grateful for.
One more thing: Is there a difference between feeling our connection to the natural world or just being aware of it?